Nadal, 32, has won 17 major championships and was playing his 30th Grand Slam semifinal.
Tsitsipas, 20, has just a single tour title. Though he enthralled crowds and flashed his talent throughout the tournament — including an upset of the two-time defending champion Roger Federer — he is still relatively new to pro tennis. He had never previously advanced past the fourth round of a major.
Despite the chasm in experience, it seemed Tsitsipas was playing well enough to have a chance.
Instead, it was never close. Nadal came out sharply, targeting lethal, down-the-line groundstrokes to seize momentum with a break in the third game. From that moment, his power suffocated the young Greek.
As much as Tsitsipas tried to inflict damage with flat returns, Nadal rarely seemed rushed. He was never broken. The first set was over in 31 pragmatic minutes. The second took 44. The third, another 31. By the standards of professional men’s tennis, those sets were sprints.
Not long after the match was done, Tsitsipas, who was seeded 14th, looked dazed at his news conference, lacking any of the optimistic energy he’d exuded after previous matches. On Tuesday, he had explained how he’d learned from losing to Nadal last summer in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. He had remembered coming off the court there feeling he would do much better next time against the Spaniard, because now he had a sense of Nadal’s game, “especially on hardcourt.”
Two days later, there was no such gumption.
“He plays just a different game style than the rest of the players,” Tsitsipas said, dolefully.
It looked as if he had just been pummeled in a boxing ring.
“He has this, I don’t know, talent that no other player has,” Tsitsipas added. “His game style has something that it kind of makes the other half of your brain work more than it usually does. I’m trying to understand, but I cannot find an explanation.”