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Ailing Nadal survives Shapovalov thriller to reach Aussie Open semis

Spain's Rafael Nadal (AFP)
Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the men’s singles quarter-final match against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. (AFP)

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Rafael Nadal moved to within two matches of a record 21st Grand Slam title with a dogfight five-set quarter-final win over Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The Spanish sixth seed edged the Canadian 14th seed 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in 4hr 8min of thrilling action on Rod Laver Arena to advance to his seventh semi-final in Melbourne where he will face either Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils.

It was a gritty win for Nadal over the 22-year-old, who was coming off a straight-sets upset of third seed Alexander Zverev.

“It was very tough today. Honestly I didn’t practise for it,” Nadal said.

“Denis was playing great. He is very talented, very aggressive and he was serving huge. It’s amazing to be in the semi-finals.”

The Spanish legend is tied with great rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on 20 major titles but with Djokovic forced home by deportation over vaccination issues and Federer injured, the opportunity is there for him to go clear at the top.

Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, had his 2021 season wrecked by a chronic foot injury followed by a bout of Covid-19 in December. 

Nadal asked Shapovalov what was wrong and the players had a brief discussion at the net to calm the situation.

Meantime, Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas won a titanic five-set duel with American Taylor Fritz to advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday.

Madison Keys (AFP)

Tsitsipas was staring at defeat trailing two sets to one before he fought back to beat the 20th seed Fritz 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 3hr 23min of classic late-night tennis on Rod Laver Arena.

KEYS FIRST TO ADVANCE

American Madison Keys continued her impeccable start to the 2022 season with a straight-sets destruction of fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova to set up a potential Australian Open women’s semifinal against Ashleigh Barty.

But a hot morning on Melbourne Park’s center court, Rod Laver Arena, belonged to the unseeded world number 51 Keys, who was a semifinalist in 2015 but endured a terrible 2021 where she tumbled down the rankings.

“It means a lot,” said Keys, who won 6-3, 6-2 against the French Open champion Krejcikova, who needed medical attention in the heat during the first set. “Last year was really hard.”

Keys said she had had to reset completely for the new campaign and it has clearly worked. 

She won an Adelaide warm-up event this month and has now amassed 11 straight match wins in Australia ‒ equaling her tally for the whole of 2021.

“Wow, that’s gone well so far,” she said. “I am really proud of myself.”

She will face either Barty or a fellow American, Jessica Pegula, in Thursday’s semi-finals.

World number one Barty, the 2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon champion, looks in irresistible form as she chases her first Australian Open crown and the first for an Australian woman in 44 years.

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Written by Tempo Desk

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