Rusty Nadal into Melbourne ATP final

Murray Wenzel |

Rafael Nadal is cherishing his time on court, even if it’s frustrating him too, as the Spanish champion builds a case for Australian Open contention.

Spain’s 20-time major winner can add to his 88 career titles on Sunday after beating Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4 7-5 to reach the final of the ATP’s Melbourne Summer Set warm-up event.

He’ll play surprise finalist Maxime Cressy, who upset Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 7-6 (11-9) earlier on Saturday on Rod Laver Arena.

Injuries last year and a heavy bout of COVID-19 in December had looked as if it might derail 35-year-old Nadal’s shot at a record 21st grand slam title.

But he’s fit again and happy to go through the gears ahead of the January 17 start at Melbourne Park.

“It’s important to come back after five, six months outside the competition, it means alot,” he said.

“Of course, I need to do things better on court, but it’s step by step.

“I need to play with the best attitude possible, even if the tennis isn’t perfect. I know how to do it, it’s about being patient.”

Nadal had a first-round bye, then on Thursday beat Ricardas Berankis 6-2 7-5 in his first official ATP Tour match since August, before he received a walkover in the quarter-final.

Word No.112 Cressy, a Paris-born American, has beaten Australian Rinky Hijikata, second seed Reilly Opelka, Spaniard Jaume Munar and former world No.3 Dimitrov to reach the final.