Men’s singles: Rafael Nadal defeats Denis Shapovalov in 5 sets and qualifies for the semi-finals

Rafael Nadal is a survivor. The Majorcan won Tuesday morning in Melbourne a real physical and mental fight to overcome a threatening Denis Shapovalov in five sets (6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3), after a 4:08 match with a completely crazy scenario. At the controls of this quarter-final with an advantage of two sets to nothing, the Spaniard, marked by stomach problems, lost his common thread and Shapovalov rushed into the small breach left by the man with 20 Grand Slam titles to take him in five rounds. Except that it is the more experienced of the two who found the solution in this decisive set.

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This difficult success allowed Nadal to qualify for his 7th semi-final at the Australian Open, the 36th overall of his Grand Slam career. The good news is that the left-handed Manacor is just two wins away from claiming a 21st major title. Such an outcome would be quite a surprise after the physical problems encountered by Nadal during the 2021 season. Precisely, his quarter-final looked like two drops of water to the one lost a year ago against Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Mallorcan had wandered for two rounds, before dropping ballast and being knocked down by the Athenian. This time he resisted the ardor of youth.

‘You’re all corrupt’: Shapovalov hits out at referee, too lenient to Nadal for his taste

This illegible match was played in the 5th act. While everything indicated that Shapovalov was going to dominate this decisive round, if only by his better physical condition, this is where the Canadian machine crashed. In the continuity of the very end of the 3rd set, where he had broken Nadal for the first time in the match (at 5-4) and the 4th set, the seeded n ° 14 of the tournament obtained break points on Nadal’s first two service games, still physically upside down. Problem, he was unable to convert those opportunities.

Frustrated until the end: Shapovalov smashed his racket after the match point

Nadal diminished

Nadal saved the first (0-0) by releasing a first saving ball. At 2-0 Nadal, who had made the break in the meantime, Shapovalov offered a huge gift at 30/40, before being punished by another first ball from the Spaniard at Advantage. Between these two commitments, the semi-finalist of the last Wimbledon had offered the break to Rafa with three faults and a double fault. These three service games were crucial and Shapovalov showed the same nervousness and impatience here as at the start of the game. He committed 13 unforced errors in the last set (5 for Nadal) and 51 throughout the quarter-final. Despite his 53 winning shots, it was too much even against a diminished Nadal.

Nadal: “I don’t know how I managed to finish this match”

Rafael Nadal ended this meeting well being physically diminished. Overwhelmed by the heat which had already affected Barbora Krejcikova a few hours earlier on this same Rod Laver Arena, victim of stomach problems, Carlos Moya’s protege went through the 4th act like a ghost. Pale complexion, scowl, Nadal had a very rare physical pump at home. After taking a pill, he went to get diagnosed by the tournament doctor before the start of the fifth act to see if everything was okay.

This cut did him some good, even if it did not have such a significant impact on the outcome of the match. This match it was Denis Shapovalov who had it at the end of his racket. In the fifth set, Nadal just served better (he committed 11 double faults on Tuesday), before changing tactics and playing caution based on discounts. A recipe as old as the world. The moral of this story is that young people still have a lot to learn.

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Frustrated until the end: Shapovalov smashed his racket after the match point

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