Rafael Nadal beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas in Australian Open quarter-final
The fifth seed ended the world No 2's chances of securing a 21st Grand Slam title after a four-hour and five-minute epic in Melbourne; Tsitsipas will face Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 18/02/21 4:55am
Stefanos Tsitsipas produced a remarkable comeback from two sets down to beat Rafael Nadal and reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
The fifth seed and his opponent spent four hours and five minutes on court and Tsitsipas showed exceptional problem-solving and determination to overcome his slow start and win 3-6 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-5.
It is only Tsitsipas' second victory over Nadal in eight meetings and his reward will be an encounter with the in-form Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final.
For Nadal, the defeat marks only the second time in his career at a Grand Slam that he has lost a match after securing the first two sets.
It also ends his quest, at this Grand Slam, to secure a 21st Grand Slam title. Instead, he remains level with Roger Federer at the top of the all-time standings, with regard to men's Grand Slam titles.
Novak Djokovic, who still remains in the tournament and faces qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals, currently sits on 17 Grand Slam titles.
"I'm speechless, I have no words to describe what just happened on court," Tsitsipas said after the victory.
"My tennis speaks out for itself. It's an unbelievable feeling to be able to fight at such a level and just be able to give it my all out on the court.
"In today's performance, I started very nervously, but I don't know what happened after the third set. I just flew like a little bird and everything was working for me.
"I think the emotions at the very end are indescribable, they're just something else."
Despite gaining just three and two games in the opening sets, Tsitsipas never became visibly frustrated or angry with himself.
Instead, he kept his demeanour on an even keel and in the third set, his vision and ability to read Nadal improved greatly. As a result, the tables turned and he became the one who was pushing Nadal into making unforced errors.
After the pair traded service holds in the third set, the tie-break commenced and once again it was Tsitsipas' lower error count which paid dividends.
His fist pump and determined look when he secured the tie-break by seven points to four, was an indication of his growing confidence and belief.
"Something I focused a lot on today was staying calm on the court and holding my nerve is a very important element. I have been failing to do that in some of my matches," he admitted openly afterwards.
"I would give a big part of my win today to being able to do that; being able to be consistent with my mood and staying calm in the crucial and tight moments.
"I've been working on trying to keep everything to myself and that's something I'm really happy with. I'm really happy with the attitude that I showed out on court."
As the contest moved in the fourth set, both men raised their intensity further but neither's physicality waned. Nadal continued to show a greater accuracy on serve, however, he was not able to make inroads on the Tsitsipas serve.
At the same time, his unforced errors remained and despite Nadal's trademark resilience, Tsitsipas was able to remain strong and convert one of the four break-point chances he made.
The deciding set had the words 'championship tie-break' written all over it until a slip in concentration from Nadal was pounced upon by Tsitsipas.
As Nadal's eye just went off the ball, the Greek player sensed his chance and at 5-5 broke to love, in order to serve for the match.
From there, he showed incredible poise to hold his serve under intense pressure from Nadal.
The world No 2 saved two match points with his tenacious play, however, at the third time of asking the 22-year-old Greek flew a backhand winner down-the-line and secured a memorable victory.
Crowds to return to Australian Open
Meanwhile, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley announced that crowds will be able to return for the final four days of the competition.
After Melbourne's re-emergence from a five-day lockdown there will be a limit on numbers for each session but fans will be returning to Melbourne Park.
"We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high," Tiley said in a statement. "The crowd will be capped at 7,477 for each session, which is approximately 50 per cent capacity.
"Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric.
"The players appreciated the opportunity to compete in front of crowds for the first time in almost a year, and many spoke about how emotional it was to connect with fans again.
"The COVID-safe measures we had in place will continue, and we've opened up the zones so everyone can access the full site and enjoy both Grand Slam Oval and Garden Square.
"We are all looking forward to an incredible four days of tennis and can't wait to see everyone back at the AO."
Fans who do have tickets will be treated to a stunning day of tennis, starting with the women's singles semi-finals.
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams will duel inside the Rod Laver Arena from 2pm local time before Karolina Muchova takes on Jennifer Brady.
In the evening session, world No 1 Novak Djokovic will take on the 114th-ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev for a place in the men's final.