Melbourne – Reuters
Rafael Nadal is just two wins away from setting a record 21 Grand Slam titles with a thrilling five-setter victory over Denis Shapovalov to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the seventh time on Tuesday.
In the sweltering afternoon heat at Rod Laver Arena, the Spanish fighter faced a big problem after Shapovalov came from two sets down before Nadal finally won 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3.
“He totally beat me after the first two sets,” Nadal said after the match, which lasted four hours and eight minutes. “It’s really nice to be in the semi-finals and to have the chance to play another game here at Rod Laver Arena.”
Nadal escaped from a repeat of what happened in the quarter-finals last year in Melbourne, when he was eliminated from the tournament against Stefanos Tsitsipas, after he was leading by two sets.
Just two months ago, the sixth seed was talking about the possibility of ending his career as he had a problem with his foot, but he will now prepare for his 36th semi-final at the Grand Slam against Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils.
His dream of a grand slam record seemed to be lost when the 35-year-old lost the fourth set.
But Nadal asked for treatment time and then returned to break Shapovalov in the second game of the deciding set.
Experienced with 20 Grand Slam titles, Nadal thwarted the Canadian opponent’s resistance to claim one of his greatest victories after Shapovalov flung a ball wide and then smashed his racket in anger.
“We can make history, but in fact, just two months ago, I didn’t know if I could continue playing in the professional tournaments at all,” Nadal said. “So I think life has given me another chance and gift by being here and continuing in the tournament.”
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