The story of this year's Australian Open started with the focus squarely on Novak Djokovic, but there is a real chance that it will end with everyone talking about Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard is now just one step away from a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title after beating Matteo Berrettini in their semi-final clash in four sets, 6-3,6-2,3-6,6-3.

The winner of the second semi-final between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev will face Nadal at the Rod Laver arena on Sunday, where the Spaniard will attempt to make history.

Nadal is always humble in victory, stating that he is just happy to be playing in the Australian Open. He admitted that a month and a half ago, he did not even know if he can still play competitive tennis due to his recurring foot injury. However, his delight as he secured match point gave away the fact that he knows exactly what he might achieve if he wins on Sunday.

Even though Nadal is always a strong favourite in any tournament that he plays in, fans have been cautiously optimistic due to the fact that he spent most of 2021 sidelined due to his injury. He escaped a close call against Denis Shapovalov in the quarter finals, where he admitted to feeling "destroyed" after a gruelling five setter in the Australian summer heat.

Against the Canadian and again in the semi-final against Berrettini, Nadal cruised through the first two sets. However, he wavered in the third set, which allowed Shapovalov to push for a decider. It seemed like there was a danger of that happening again on Friday, when the Italian made quick work of the third set. A comeback was not to be though, as Nadal got his act together and sealed the victory by dominating the fourth set.

He admitted that he appreciated the fact that he had two days to recover after the match against Shapovalov, which allowed him to come better prepared for the semi-final. The match between Tsitsipas and Medvedev is expected to be intense, and Nadal will surely be hoping that it will take some energy away from whoever he will face on Sunday.

This is Nadal's sixth Australian Open final, but he has only won the title once back in 2009. 15 years later, he is hoping to claim his second title down under, and an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam trophy which puts him above his two biggest rivals. Djokovic was deported before the tournament started and Federer has been sidelined due to his own fitness problems, leaving Nadal to be the only one of the "big three" to have a chance to get past their three-way tie at 20 major titles.

Rafael Nadal
Sweat drips from the face of Spain's Rafael Nadal as he plays against Canada's Denis Shapovalov during their men's singles quarter-final Photo: AFP / Aaron FRANCIS