is one win away from becoming the first man in the Open Era to win all Grand Slam titles twice or more after he thumped Greece prodigy Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets.
In doing so, he moved one step closer to closing the gap on Roger Federer’s all-time majors haul to just two titles and he will play for an 18th Grand Slam title on Sunday against either Lucas Pouille or old foe .
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to see anyone – even world No. 1 Djokovic – stopping the second seed, who is playing some of the best tennis he’s ever produced on a hard court and he thumped the Next Gen star 6-2 6-4 6-0 in an hour and 46 minutes on Thursday night.
Tsitsipas – who enjoyed a sensational run to the semi-finals of a Slam for the first time – claimed he had an insight into how to beat the 2009 champion on a hard court after their first meeting on the surface in Toronto last summer, but this is a different Nadal.
Gone is the man who tried to play gruelling clay-court tennis on hard, Nadal 2.0 looks to kill points quickly with his deadly ball striking.
Much has been made of the Spanish No. 1’s new serve but the most important factor behind the changes is how it sets up the second shot. More often than not, it leads to a crunching forehand winner.
The roof had been closed for the day’s women’s semi-finals due to extreme weather conditions but with the heat stress reading sliding back towards normality, it was opened for the night session.
That’s not to say it was cool, far from it. The temperature had dropped fractionally from the 42°C afternoon heat scorching those in attendance, with hot air blowing gently round the Rod Laver Arena. Spectators used hand fans to battle the sticky conditions.
Tsitsipas showed himself to be a fearless competitor in a dramatic and admitted he to win his first major here at Melbourne Park, in what he believed would be the ‘complete’ Grand Slam title. It didn’t pan out that way.
With no fear in his heart, he serve and volleyed on the first point of the match, holding to love with ease.
The first lengthy exchange came on the first point of Nadal’s serve. The Tsitsipas aesthetically pleasing one-handed backhand went toe-to-toe with Nadal’s fearsome forehand before the Spaniard sent a drop-shot wide.
It was the Greek who dropped serve first, though. Federer failed to get through him in a four-set match but it took Nadal just two service games to expose cracks in the Athenian’s defensive wall.
Tsitsipas shot himself in the foot to hand the Spaniard his second break of the match, serving two double faults from 40-15 to allow Nadal back into the game, it was an opportunity he didn’t pass up as he broke before wrapping up a 6-2 lead.
An army of Greek fans were gathered outside the stadium and their young gladiator continued to fight courageously, despite the early setback.
A horrible net cord flew agonisingly beyond the debutant at the net to set up three break points for Nadal at 2-2 in the second but the world No. 15 dug deep – as he did so often against Federer – to hold.
It proved not to be a turning point, Nadal broke again for a 5-4 lead as Tsitsipas dumped a half volley into the net.
A couple of quick breaks at the start of the third, and ultimately final, set put Nadal within touching distance and he made no mistake in crossing the finish line, bagelling the young Greek in the process.
He has lost his past three finals at Melbourne Park – to Djokovic (2012), Wawrinka (2014) and Federer (2017) but he will take some stopping come Sunday’s final.