Rafael Nadal reached a fifth Australian Open final with an outstanding 6-2 6-4 6-0 defeat of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last four on Thursday.
The 17-time grand slam champion has found life tough on the hard courts in the past 12 months, but his sole title on this surface in 2018 came against Tsitsipas at the Rogers Cup and, in Melbourne, he again had the measure of the 20-year-old.
First-time major semi-finalist Tsitsipas had battled from a set down to beat defending champion Roger Federer in the round of 16, yet a similar fightback never looked likely here.
Nadal was in supreme form, dominating his opponent with a series of brilliant groundstrokes and volleys to hush talk of a challenge from the next generation at this grand slam.
His hopes of a second Australian Open title now rest on Sunday’s decider against either Novak Djokovic or Lucas Pouille.
V A M O S @RafaelNadal is into his 25th Grand Slam final, def. Tsitsipas 6-2 6-4 6-0 in 1 hour and 46 minutes. #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/4QpHX7SoFy
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 24, 2019
Nadal took the first break point opportunity as he stepped forward and Tsitsipas sent a stretching back-hand return wide, before protecting his advantage with an accomplished hold to love.
The Spaniard remained on the offensive and broke through again before the end of the opener, drawn to the net by a drop shot and executing a delicate effort just out of Tsitsipas’ reach.
Just 31 minutes were required for Nadal to wrap up the first set, but Tsitsipas dug deep in the second and brilliantly saved three break points after the net had deceived him at a key moment.
Errors crept into the youngster’s game at 4-4, though, and the break followed when he could not lift a close-range shot over the net, leaving Nadal to confidently serve out another set.
There was no let-up in Nadal’s play and he broke again in the opening game of the third set with a powerful backhand, then moved two up with a sublime lob preceding a ruthless volley.
Tsitsipas’ focus appeared to waver as his illustrious opponent closed on the finish line and a humbling set continued with another break, this time to love when the Greek sent a forehand a long way wide.
That allowed Nadal to serve for the match and, despite handing Tsitsipas his first break point opportunity of the contest, victory was soon secured.
Nadal  bt Tsitsipas  6-2 6-4 6-0
Nadal – 28/2
Tsitsipas – 17/1
Nadal – 5/0
Tsitsipas – 5/2
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 6/11
Tsitsipas – 0/1
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 66
Tsitsipas – 69
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 85/71
Tsitsipas – 64/30
Nadal – 79
Tsitsipas – 47