Australian Open: Rafael Nadal survives Shapovalov scare to reach semifinals | Inquirer Sports
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Australian Open: Rafael Nadal survives Shapovalov scare to reach semifinals

/ 03:54 PM January 25, 2022
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the men's singles quarter-final match against Canada's Denis Shapovalov on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2022.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the men’s singles quarter-final match against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2022. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) /

MELBOURNE—Rafa Nadal has drawn within two wins of a record 21st Grand Slam title, claiming a five-set thriller against Denis Shapovalov to grind into the Australian Open semifinals on Tuesday.

On a steamy afternoon at Rod Laver Arena, the warrior Spaniard suffered a huge scare as Shapovalov roared back from two sets down before bowing out 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 after four taxing hours.

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“I was completely destroyed after that,” Nadal said on-court after the match, which lasted four hours and eight minutes.

“It’s amazing, honestly, to be in the semi-finals … For me it’s everything to be able to play one more time here in the Rod Laver Arena.”

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After dropping the fourth set, Nadal marshaled his resources off court with a medical time-out then returned to break Shapovalov in the second game to wrest back the momentum.

Two months ago, the sixth seed wondered whether his career was finished as he struggled to come back from a foot injury, but he will now prepare for his 36th Grand Slam semifinal against Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils.

Alarm bells were ringing for the record bid when the 35-year-old dropped the fourth set and exited the court for a medical time-out.

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But he returned to break Shapovalov in the second game of the decider and kept the Canadian at arm’s length to the finish.

After pushing a volley wide on match-point, Shapovalov turned and smashed his racket into the court in anguish.

A beaming Nadal spread his arms wide, leant back and pointed to the corners of the stadium, soaking up one of his finer wins at Melbourne Park.

“We can create histories … but the real truth is that two months ago, we didn’t know if we will be able to be back on Tour at all,” he said.

“So here I am. For me it’s just a present of life that I’m here playing tennis again.”

Shapovalov was brave in defeat but will rue the head start he gave Nadal and later on, the double-fault served at 1-0 down in the final set that gifted the Spaniard three break points.

The hot-tempered Canadian tried everything he could think of as he struggled earlier in the match, demanding Nadal receive a code violation for not taking to the court quickly enough at the start of the second set.

“Are you kidding me? You guys are all corrupt,” the 14th seed snapped at the chair umpire when denied satisfaction.

Shapovalov hung in, though, and pounced when Nadal gifted three set points in the third set with a horror service game.

He stepped in and thrashed a stunning cross-court thunderbolt off his backhand to claim the third set, turning the match on its head.

Shapovalov was transformed as Nadal grew sluggish, earning a code violation for breaching the serve clock at 2-1 in the fourth set.

After dropping serve and falling 4-1 behind, Nadal called for a trainer, pointed to his stomach and took a tablet.

Wielding his one-handed backhand like a wand, Shapovalov served out the set and seemed certain to repeat the Tsitsipas stunner.

But three break points slipped through his fingers in the decider, allowing Nadal to forge clear and keep the record bid alive.

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TAGS: Australian Open, Grand Slam, Rafael Nadal
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