Melbourne, Australia – Rafael Nadal’s bid to win the 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title ended Wednesday night when he lost to Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas, in the quarter-finals in Australian Open.
Tsitsipas lost the first two sets but came back to defeat Nadal, the second player in the world, 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5, in uphill four. Duel hour for the biggest Grand Slam win of his career.
Nadal played almost flawless first sets, did not allow a break or even a point break, and seemed to be in full control of the match. But in the third set, he missed the tiebreak by two headers and sent a wide backhand to give Tsitsipas the tiebreak and a lifeline.
Then what had been a defeat turned into street fighting. Tsitsipas was playing on new legs after winning a fourth round match in a fast-paced run, becoming increasingly stingy to serve, refusing to give Nadal a chance to seize an advantage and force him to make dirty mistakes as he became more exhausted.
Tsitsipas, who is 22 years younger than Nadal by 12 years, seems to have gained energy and bounced back in his stride as the evening dawned, reaching for balls that were out of his reach earlier and forcing Nadal into extra shots and a fight to keep up. Serve it in almost every match.
In the fifth set, Nadal and Tsitsipas exchanged service games, as Tsitsipas’ serving became increasingly untouchable – sending four consecutive aces to take the set at 3-3 – and Nadal battling for nearly every point to stay in level. Nadal sent 5-5 in the fifth set, and made two fouls to lose the first two points of the match, then missed a front kick to give Tsitsipas the opportunity to serve.
With his friends and support team just in the stands due An abrupt shutdown amid a small coronavirus outbreakTsitsipas dropped his racket when it finished, made a cross on his chest and looked towards the sky.
The Final was a microcosm of the match. Nadal made an early lead, followed by the return of Tsitsipas, and Nadal fought the match points to give himself a chance to escape, before hitting the ball with a forehand and watching Tsitsipas hit a backhand on the line to decide the match.
“Moments like this haven’t happened very often in my career,” said Tsitsipas, who also won the ATP Finals in 2019 and sacked Roger Federer at the same venue two years ago. “The fact that I came back the way I did, and the way I fought against Rafa, that was an extra thing.”
For Nadal, the loss prevented him from defeating Swiss Roger Federer in a duel between the two for the most Grand Slam singles tournaments.
Federer was sidelined due to a knee injury Since the Australian Open last year, he has missed all of the Grand Slams since tennis returned in August ahead of the US Open. He plans to return to competition in the coming weeks.
Nadal skipped the US Open as well, but returned to the French Open weeks later, winning it to Federer tying 20 singles titles.
Nadal was not the favorite in the tournament, which he won only once, in 2009, although he came close to it on other occasions, most notably in 2012, when he lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic in a match that lasted five times. 1 hour and 53 minutes. The championship is contested on fast hard courts, which challenge Nadal far more than the slow red clay in Paris or the softer grass at Wimbledon, which reduces his body wear.
“Another story in my tennis career, another game I lost in Australia,” Nadal said shortly after the loss. “I have to go home and train to be better. That is it.”
Nadal’s loss is likely to make Djokovic’s bid for a record ninth Australian Open title much easier. Djokovic will play world number 114 Aslan Karatsev in the semifinals on Thursday. If he wins, he will face either Tsitsipas or Daniel Medvedev of Russia in the finals.
Nadal stretched his lower back while training in Adelaide before the tournament. The injury prevented him from following his normal training routine for nearly three weeks, but after winning the third round here over Cameron Noori from Britain he said the problem was largely resolved. He dominated Italian Fabio Fonini in the fourth round and did not lose a set in the tournament before facing Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas had only one victory in seven attempts against Nadal in a match Wednesday evening. At first he tried to win by finishing points quickly and avoiding the long rallies that Nadal used to exhaust his opponents. But Nadal kept shooting within inches of the lines Tsitsipas had struggled to get.
With Nadal exhausted, Tsitsipas stayed behind and chased something like a tennis rope, keeping the ball in play until Nadal made a foul or gave Tsitsipas a chance to win. Nadal finally broke in the ninth game of the fourth set, winning it in the next set as Nadal hit the net to turn the match into a one-set battle.
It was only the third time Nadal had lost after winning the first two sets.
“There will be matches you lose like today against one of the best players in the world,” Nadal said. “It’s something that happens.”
Tsitsipas is now facing Daniel Medvedev from Russia In the semifinals. He said he woke up on Wednesday in a calm state, feeling things were going his way.
“Really, nothing was going on in my head,” he said when asked what he was thinking as he started running the match on his way. “I was in a kind of nirvana. Playing, not thinking.”