‘Completely wrong’: Rafa’s aggressive call
RAFAEL Nadal left Stefanos Tsitsipas a dazed, confused and broken mess after destroying him in straight sets in the Australian Open semi-finals.
The young Greek star was so bereft of ideas as to what had happened during the 6-2 6-4 6-0 bloodbath his post-match press conference turned into a therapy session.
As he grappled for answers, he twice mentioned the new-found aggression he felt the Spanish star had brought to the contest which had left him on the backfoot on the baseline the entire night.
But in the final blow in a series of haymakers that began as soon as the match began and didn't finish until Nadal had wrapped up his post-match press conference, the world No.2 took issue with Tsitsipas's assessment.
"Is nothing new that I am aggressive," said Nadal, when told his 20-year-old opponent had been surprised by the intensity of his approach.
"The problem with myself is because I had a lot of success on clay people probably think I am not aggressive.
"People (who) think that are completely wrong. That's the real thing, no?
"Of course, I am not doing serve and volley. I am not hitting winners every ball. But I play all the shots with a goal. There is not better way to be aggressive than hit every shot with the goal to create damage on the opponent. That was my goal during all my career."
Nadal was prepared to concede a tweak to his service motion, which has been a stirring success to this point of the tournament, was allowing him to dictate points earlier.
"Today I can do that damage little bit earlier than before because during this event I have been serving great," he said.
"So when you serve great, then the first ball normally is a little bit easier. That's probably the only reason. I had the determination to make that happen. That's all."
In a frightening development for men's tennis - and particularly Roger Federer's hopes of hanging on to the record for most grand slam titles (currently 20-17 in Federer's favour) - Nadal feels better equipped to shorten points and reduce the wear-and-tear is famously delivered to his body throughout his career.
"I can't play like Roger when I don't have the serve of Roger. You know, Roger have a lot of free points, have lot of times that he starts with the serve, then he have a not-very-difficult forehand. Was not my case during all my career because I never had that serve," Nadal said.
"But today I'm serving better. That's why I'm able to create more winners on the first ball."
Nadal declared it impossible to assess whether he's playing better than ever, but he knows his game has moved with the times.
"We can't compare the rest of my career with today. I am playing well today. I am doing a lot of things well. (But) the results say during my career I did a lot of things very well, too. We can't say now I am playing better than never, no. I did a lot of things well during my career," he said.
"Today I have to adapt my game to the new time and to my age, that's all. That's what I did during all my career, just try to adapt my game with the circumstances that I went through. That's the only reason why at this moment I'm still here competing at high level.
"I know during that 15, 16, 17 years of my professional tennis career, I (was) going to lose things on my way, so I need to add new things. That's what I tried to do during all my career, to improve the things that I can improve."
Nadal will likely face a familiar foe in Sunday's final with Novak Djokovic a heavy favourite to progress through a semi-final against Lucas Pouille on Friday night.
Before the start of the tournament Djokovic was tipped to win the tournament, based on his sensational finish to last season and 8-2 record against Nadal since 2015.
But it's hard to argue against the form the Spanish left-hander has shown over the past fortnight and he has a huge opportunity to take control of the chase for Federer's record of 20 slams which turned back in Djokovic's favour when he jumped to 14 after winning Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
If Nadal can get No.18 on Sunday it's hard to see anyone denying him No.19 at the French Open - where he's won 11 times including the past two years - which would raise the stakes enormously at Wimbledon.