An error from Tsitsipas costs him the first point. Then Nadal hoofs an overhead to level matters. That was a rare event. He had let it drop it too low. It goes to 2-1 when Tsitsipas cannot return serve. Then to 2-2 when Nadal makes an error from a lofted shot to the back of the court. 3-2 after a fine serve that Nadal’s backhand cannot return. It goes to 3-3-3 when Tsitsipas cannot get the angle of his return right. Then another error on an overhead from Nadal means it is the Greek who is ahead. And it goes to 5-3 after a shanked return. He serves and volleys to give himself three set points. Nadal’s drop shot takes one of them back. And Nadal has the serve for the next two points. He goes long to lose the set. 7-4.
Nadal’s run continues to go 30-0 up with some top-spinning forcing errors from his opponents. Then to 40-0. The spell is broken at 40-15 just when he almost served out every point in the set. That doesn’t deter. It goes to a tie-break.
Nadal takes the first point, just the third Tsitsipas has lost on his serve. Then Tsitsipas wins a great rally in which they both play some great shots. Nadal’s passing shot falls short and is stop-volley down. It goes to 30-15 after an ace. Then 40-15. Fine serving from the Greek. And his big hitting places Nadal’s serve in jeopardy by serving out the game.
Nadal plays a wild shot but it lands in for 15-0. When your luck’s in, it’s in. Then he bullies his way through a rally, staying so close to the line yet just in. That makes it 24 points in a row on his serve. And against someone who is actually playing well at the moment.
Tsitsipas is still serving well. It was at this point in the first set that he faltered and was broken. And a couple of aces takes him to within a game of winning the set. All he has to do is break Nadal.
Tsitsipas sends Nadal chasing all over Melbourne to go 30-0 up. But then it goes to 30-15 with a backhand winner from Nadal. A clenched fist from Tsitsipas as it goes to 40-15. He then claims the game with some serve and volleying.
Some patience in the rally at last from the Greek. He goes to 40-0 – the serving is much improved – then at last loses a point on serve with a slicing attempt at a backhand winner down the line. He then serves out.
Tsitsipas beginning to look forlorn. He stares into space after netting a very gettable winner. Then he is forced to improvise and misses the line with a jumping backhand crasher. A fine serve gives Nadal two set points. Then Tsitsipas tries another big winner and can only hit the net. He’s in deep trouble here. Nadal looks imperious, completely unflustered.