Nadal Slams Shapo Door Shut, Reaches Australian Open SFs

Spaniard next plays Berrettini

In his quest for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title, Rafael Nadal showcased the legendary fight and grit that has defined his career in a five-set Australian Open quarter-final win.

Playing in his 14th Melbourne quarter-final, Nadal battled through to his seventh semi with a 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in four hours and seven minutes.

“I was completely destroyed after that,” said Nadal, who will now have a “very important” two full days of rest before taking the court again on Friday. “For me it’s amazing, honestly, to be in the semi-finals.”

Now two wins away from a second Aussie Open men’s singles title (2009), Nadal looked set to pass his toughest test of the fortnight with flying colours in a bright pink kit. In the end, he survived an inspired comeback from the 14th seed and a troubled stomach to avoid the upset. One year after surrendering a two-set lead to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the same stage on Rod Laver Arena, Nadal was able to summon a late surge to avoid a sequel.

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In the final set, Nadal crucially broke in the second game, either side of two dramatic service holds in which he saved a combined three break points across four deuces. Conserving his reserve energy for his service games, he saw the advantage home with an array of clutch deliveries to close out the match.

“I was lucky that I was serving great in the fifth,” said the always-humble winner, who credited Shapovalov for his aggressive play. “He was serving huge, and especially the second serve,” Nadal continued in his on-court interview.

The Spaniard was dominant early on Tuesday in Melbourne. Entering the match with just two breaks of serve against on the fortnight, Nadal did not face a break point until the third set. With temperatures as high as 32 degrees Celsius on the show court, his heavy ground game benefitted from bouncy conditions. He was at his best in medium-length rallies, amassing a 37 to 16 edge over the course of the match on exchanges of five to eight balls.

After winning an epic first-set tie-break against Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round, Nadal was clinical early on against Shapovalov. The Spaniard won his first five service games to 15, coupled with a break at love in the fourth game of the set. The break was given as much as it was earned, as Shapovalov followed a Nadal winner with three unforced forehand errors.

However, the Canadian started to find traction on his serve after the early wobble, cashing in on free points to string together easy holds and assert himself in the match in set two. Defending with more success and dragging Nadal into longer rallies, Shapovalov threatened in three straight return games—including a combined four deuces—but still could not get to break point.

Nadal left the court to change into a dry kit after the second set, as Shapovalov plotted to change the course of the match. With increased aggression, the Canadian finally made his breakthrough with Nadal serving to stay in the third. He fired a menacing backhand winner to seal the set after more attacking play forced two Nadal errors.

It was a signal of intent, as Shapovalov was firmly in the ascendancy from there. Nadal required treatment from the physio and took tablets for an apparent stomach problem prior to the fifth, but returned to show his championship mettle with a vintage final-set performance.

The 35-year-old will take on seventh seed Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals. The Italian outlasted Frenchman Gael Monfils in five sets.