Australian Open (1/4 final): Stefanos Tsitsipas – Rafael Nadal

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This will be the eighth time these two veterans of the ATP Tour will compete against each other.

Rafael Nadal leads in this head-to-head with 6 victories, including all matches played on this surface.

Tournament history

This is Stefanos Tsitsipas’ fourth participation in this Grand Slam tournament. In 2020, the Greek failed to make it past the third round, and his best performance is a semifinal in 2019.

Rafael Nadal is competing in the Australian Open for the 16th time in his career. This is the 13th time he reached the quarter-finals, and he has been eliminated 6 times at this level of the competition (including last year by Dominic Thiem, after a nice match in 4 sets including 3 tie-breaks). Furthermore, the Spanish has reached the final 5 times and has already lifted the trophy once (in 2009).

In this edition

In this 2021 edition, Stefanos Tsitsipas won against Gilles Simon, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Mikael Ymer. The Greek then took advantage of Matteo Berrettini’s forfeit to escape to the quarter-finals without playing. It should be noted that only Thanasi Kokkinakis managed to steal 2 sets from him.

Rafael Nadal, as for him, won in 3 sets against Laslo Djere, Michael Mmoh, Cameron Norrie and Fabio Fognini.

Analysis

Stefanos Tsitsipas is currently playing at an excellent level. One could even say at a Top 5 level. Rafael Nadal is also performing well. All this makes me say that we should see a very nice battle. Oh yes!

What I really like about Stefanos Tsitsipas is that he has shown a good regularity in the rallies since the beginning of the season. He moves very well sideways, which allows him to be on many balls. One will also note his capacity to find excellent zones and, at the same time, to succeed in making nice “winners”.

In addition, Stefanos Tsitsipas has been very solid in service since the beginning of the tournament. In 3 matches, it’s 4 breaker balls conceded for 3 saved (only Mikael Ymer managed to break him). Let’s take some tweezers with this because the Greek has not yet faced receivers as good as Rafael Nadal.

Exactly, Nadal. Spanish is also solid on his service games. He still concedes a little more opportunities than Tsitsipas. Especially because of his second balls that put him in tricky situations when his opponents attack him back.

For this new match, and he said it himself, Rafael Nadal will have to be a bit more aggressive. The Spanish is a monster in defence who will be able to force Stefanos Tsitsipas to play systematically an extra shot (and that should allow Nadal to win a few points). But the world number 2 will also be able to be punished more than once if he plays too neutral shots. Stefanos Tsitsipas has an offensive mindset. So we can imagine that he will try to take initiatives to avoid playing endless rallies systematically.

Where I think Rafael Nadal will be able to make the difference is when he plays his powerful forehand on Stefanos Tsitsipas’ backhand. He’s also very good on that side as well. But the speed of the Spanish’s ball combined with his good length could well put him very regularly on the defensive. Rafael Nadal has the characteristic of hitting very hard and I doubt that Stefanos Tsitsipas will be able to send the ball where he wants it.

In fact, Rafael Nadal could fix Stefanos Tsitsipas’ backhand more than once and wait for the right moment to allow him to shift to target the opposite side. Yes, he masters this sequence and it is often unstoppable.

We are in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament. So we can be sure that Rafael Nadal will play every point with the same desire and therefore the same intensity. I even expect the Spanish to get stronger as the match progresses, and that could be psychologically complicated for Tsitsipas to deal with.

Finally, let us underline the difficulties of Stefanos Tsitsipas facing left-handed people. Last year for example, the Greek played 4 times against left-handed players (Shapovalov, Humbert, Nadal and Ramos-Vinolas). He won only once, it was against Albert Ramos-Vinolas (at the US Open).

Let’s finish this analysis by recalling that Rafael Nadal has small pips on his back and that he had to undergo an infiltration before his 3rd round. This seems to do him good since he performed well against Norrie and Fognini. So I imagine Rafael Nadal in full possession of his means for this quarter-final. Otherwise, Stefanos Tsitsipas could have a significant physical advantage.

Prediction: Rafael Nadal wins

High risk

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