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Australian Open semis: Nadal seeks men's record; all-U.S. women's final possible

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Australian Open semis: Nadal seeks men's record; all-U.S. women's final possible
American Madison Keys (pictured) battles No. 1 Ash Barty of Australia in the first semifinal of the 2022 Australian Open at 3:30 a.m. EST Thursday on ESPN. Photo by Jason O'Brien/EPA-EFE

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Two American women compete in separate matches, while Rafael Nadal continues his run for a record 21st Grand Slam men's singles title as part of the 2022 Australian Open semifinals Thursday and Friday in Melbourne.

The action starts with a matchup between top-seeded Australian Ash Barty and American Madison Keys at 3:30 a.m. Thursday on ESPN. No. 7 Iga Swiatek of Poland follows with a match against No. 27 Danielle Collins of the United States.

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On the men's side, Spain's sixth-seeded Nadal faces No. 7 Matteo Berrettini of Italy in another singles semifinal at Rod Laver Arena. The winner of that match advances to the men's final, where he will face either No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia or No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who face off in the other semifinal.

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Keys, 26, last reached the Australian Open semifinals in 2015. She is looking for her first Grand Slam singles title.

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"I'm really trying to be a lot more measured and playing within myself a little more," Keys told reporters Tuesday. "I'm not necessarily trying to hit a winner, but constantly trying to set the point up to get to the net to try to finish off [a point]."

Barty, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has a 2-1 record against Keys. Keys won their first match at the 2017 French Open. Barty, 25, beat Keys twice in 2019.

Keys won four of her five matches in straight sets this year in Melbourne.

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Barty will attempt to win a third-consecutive match against an American, following respective fourth-round and quarterfinal wins over Amanda Anisimova and Jessica Pegula.

She won each of her five matches at the tournament in straight sets. None of those matches lasted longer than 74 minutes.

The world No. 1 is known for her slice backhand, which she uses to reset points in games. The slice comes in low for opponents, which limits their options for return. That also helps Barty set up her powerful forehand. Keys said she will worry about her side of the net instead of overthinking Barty's approach.

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"Madison is an exceptional athlete," Barty told reporters Tuesday. "She has a great serve and a great first strike off the return and her first ball after her serve.

"It's about trying to put her in an uncomfortable position and trying to get her off-balance. If she controls the center of the court, the match is on her racket. I need to find a balance and problem solve my way through it."

Swiatek and Collins will meet for the first time. Swiatek, 20, won the 2020 French Open for her lone Grand Slam title. This marks the first time she advanced past the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Collins, 28, also reached the 2019 Australian Open semifinals, but is still looking for her first major title. She also advanced to the 2020 French Open quarterfinals.

"Now that I've made quarterfinals and the semifinals, I think I can use those experiences to help me in the tight pressure moments on the court," Collins told reporters Wednesday.

"I can use that to my advantage. Last time I was here in the semifinals I hadn't done that before."

Swiatek and Collins each played to three sets in two of their five matches at the Australian Open.

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Nadal will face Berrettini and Medvedev battles Tsitsipas in the men's singles semifinals, which start at 10:30 p.m. EST Thursday and air through Friday morning on ESPN.

Nadal, 35, is 1-0 against Berrettini. That straight-sets win came in the semifinals of the 2019 U.S. Open. Nadal is tied with Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia for the most Grand Slam singles titles in men's tennis history. His lone Australian Open title came in 2009.

Berrettini, 25, lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon 2021 men's singles final and is still looking for his first major title. He also advanced to the semifinals at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Nadal won three of his five matches in straight sets at the 2022 Australian Open. Four of Berretini's matches went at least four sets.

Medvedev is 6-2 against Tsitsipas. The Russian beat his Greek foe in the 2021 Australian Open semifinals, but lost to Tsitsipas in the 2021 French Open quarterfinals.

Medvedev, 25, is attempting to win his second-consecutive Grand Slam singles title. The 2021 U.S. Open champion lost to Djokovic in the 2021 Australian Open final.

Three of his last four matches at the Australian Open went at least four sets.

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Tsitsipas, 23, will compete in his third Australian Open semifinal. He reached the same round in 2019 and 2021. He also lost to Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and is looking for his first Grand Slam title.

The 2020 Australian Open women's singles final is expected to air at 3:30 a.m. EST Saturday on ESPN. The men's singles final airs at 3:30 a.m. EST Sunday on ESPN.

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