Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Denis Shapovalov to reach semi-finals in Melbourne
Rafael Nadal lost from two sets up against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the same stage last year and it appeared the same may well happen when Denis Shapovalov forced a decider on Rod Laver Arena, but the Spaniard made his experience count to reach the Australian Open semi-finals
Last Updated: 25/01/22 2:07pm
Rafael Nadal overcame an abdominal injury and Denis Shapovalov to win in five sets as he reached his 36th Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The Spaniard, who is gunning for a record 21st Grand Slam title, appeared to be cruising with a two-set lead before the Canadian mounted a fightback.
But Nadal, who had called the trainer for an abdominal issue during the fourth set, made his experience count to move ahead early in the fifth and hold on for a 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 victory.
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A relieved Nadal said: "I was completely destroyed. Very tough day, very warm. I didn't practise for it.
"I was a little bit lucky at the beginning of the fifth. At the beginning of the match, I was playing great but I know how difficult it is to play against a player like Denis.
"For me, it's amazing to be in the semi-finals."
The 35-year-old has two days off to try to recover physically before his semi-final against Matteo Berrettini, who beat Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 3-6 3-6 6-2.
"I started to feel not very well in my stomach," said the sixth seed. "I think I was lucky that I was serving great in the fifth. It was a great test and I really believe I'm going to be ready for that semi-final."
Shapovalov was unable to find his best form in the opening set, though, and then showed his frustration by getting into a row with umpire Carlos Bernardes over the time Nadal was taking between points.
It did not distract Nadal, who moved into a two-set lead, but Shapovalov began to turn the tide in the third set and clinched it with a backhand winner after his opponent was given a time violation.
Nadal began to look weary and troubled in the fourth set, leaving the court for six and a half minutes at the end of it for a medical examination and a toilet break.
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Two double faults - he served 11 during the match - put him in trouble in the opening game of the decider but Shapovalov could not take advantage and then dropped serve himself to give Nadal a lifeline.
The Spaniard seized it, finding more conviction in his shots again and exploiting costly errors from his opponent, who will feel he had the match in his grasp.
When a final backhand volley drifted wide, Shapovalov smashed his racket angrily on the court while Nadal celebrated reaching his 36th Grand Slam semi-final.
In the last four, Nadal will take on seventh seed Berrettini, who came through his own five-setter against Monfils to become the first Italian to reach the semi-finals here.
Monfils went into the match as the only man yet to drop a set but Berrettini was the better on the big points in the opening two sets. However, back came Monfils to level matters as the clock ticked past midnight.
Berrettini was also pushed to five sets by Carlos Alcaraz in round three and he proved his competitive mettle again by holding firm for a fine victory.