It could not be. Rafael Nadal said goodbye to Australian Open in the quarterfinals, with one of the toughest defeats of his sports career. Four hours of fierce fighting decorate a major meeting in terms of quality and suffering, in which Stefanos Tsitsipas he took the cat to the water after coming back two sets against one of the best tennis players in history. Nadal started as a shot but he ended up desperate against a rival who played one of the best matches of his career and ended up knocking down the Spanish tennis player, who says goodbye to the first Grand slam of the year, after a titanic effort to get ready.
Two shots, one of Nadal’s safest blows, missed in the tie break of the third set, off-center the manacorense and allowed the resurrection of Tsitsipas, who in the first two sets could not even imagine the turn the match would take. His level, stratospheric in all planes in the fourth and fifth sets, allowed him to make history and become, along with Fognini at US Open 2015, in the only tennis player who has been able to beat Rafa in the Grand Slam after losing the first two sets.
After three affordable matches and a match against Fognini in which, at last, he was able to display all his talent without physical limitations, Nadal returned to the Rod Laver Arena –And his evening turn– to face a whole top-10 in search of the semifinals of the tournament. Stefanos Tsitsipas, champion of the Masters Cup and semifinalist in Australia In 2019, he appeared on Rafa’s path with enough morals and tennis to make things very difficult for the Balearic Islands.
Among the virtues of Tsitsipas highlights his perseverance, the fact of not giving a ball for lost. This is combined with the punch that a 1.93-tall tennis player is supposed to be and completes a cocktail for which many consider him one of the players called to succeed. Nadal Y Djokovic at the top. In his duty, especially with regard to the direct duel with Rafa, Stefanos is penalized by the height, whenever the backhand is attacked in one hand, from the opponent’s balls. Nadal’s trademark and possible game-turning point.
The aggressiveness of Tsitsipas marked the first games of the match, with Nadal crouching down and taking his serve games forward with the counter attack as the best weapon. Stefanos it hit, but it was also exposed, so the tables were fair while waiting for the takeover in the exchanges of the number two in the world.
With 3-3 in the light, Rafa considered that his right was already hot and increased the pace of the exchanges, going on to dominate the game with the fluidity that characterized the bulk of the match against Fognini. The manacorense endowed his game with the perfect combo. The drive set a trend and with the reverse, the hidden virtue of his game, he executed a rival who was beginning to lose his mind due to the level he saw in front of him. The break necessary to unbalance the set was a reality for Nadal, which tied the first sleeve with incredible sensations.
Nadal starts sweeping
The inertia of the result of the first set was added to the level shown by Rafa in the first set, causing a new break of service of Tsitsipas start in the second quarter. There was no trace of pain in Nadal, who served better, moved as usual and completed the equation with an inspiration that we did not see, possibly since the Roland Garros final against Djokovic. Tsitsipas He was trying, but it was truly impossible to compete with what was in front of him.
💪 THE THIRD SET BEGINS!
😁 The semis one step away.
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Nadal I had the accelerator depressed and braking was simply not an option. Spurred on by the result and by the feelings found, the manacorense, insurmountable at service, found another break that put the set very uphill to Tsitsipas. The uploads to the network did not work for the Greek either, at the mercy of Rafa’s trademark passings, in a trance about the Rod Laver Arena and with the second set also on his side with just one hour and 20 minutes of the game on the clock.
The statistics, so far, accompanied what was seen in terms of sensations in the game. Nadal he had not conceded a single break ball in two sets and on three occasions of breaking the opponent’s, he scored 100% correct. 11 winners per set, six aces … and endless resources to unravel the proposals of Tsitsipas. An authentic exhibition for the enjoyment of the Spanish public on Wednesday morning.
Nadal’s deployment in the Rod Laver It forced us to think about great things, but the first thing was to finish the job before, remember, one of the best tennis players on the planet. Minimized to the extreme by rival perfection, Tsitsipas He still had a last word to say and, based on one more point of aggressiveness, he started the third set commanding, although without a break advantage that gave him tangible chances of a comeback.
A tie-break changes the game
Rafa, for his part, returned to the patient strategy of the first match games, aware of his tennis and emotional advantage that, yes, he should not lose himself in relaxation. After eight alternating games and without a single break ball that minimally altered the score, the decisive phase of the set threatened with a break that would decant the result towards a fourth set or seal the victory of Nadal. Nothing is further from reality. Rafa’s tennis perfection infected Tsitsipas, with his service, until taking the decision to a frenzied tie-break, the first for the Spanish in the tournament.
🗣 COME !!! @RafaelNadal comes to the top when the key moment of the match arrives.
💪 4-5 for the Spanish and it will remain to win the match. # AusOpenEurosport
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A small detail would turn the game, and the failure, something that almost never happens, he was going to commit Nadal. A frank shot to get ahead in sudden death ignited the spark of Tsitsipas, which was activated, took out his best tennis when he had not appeared in the entire match and made, firmly, with a third set that gave him a break and, at least, postponed his dismissal from the Australian Open.
Tsitsipas began to believe it, while Nadal, something he did not want, began to see how the duration of the game weighed on his legs. Nadal’s survival in the fourth set depended on maintaining his serve, with suffering in each game, while Stefanos he sewed and sang with his. The right hand of the Greek was holding Rafa, who saw that his was not among a cluster of errors that led him to despair.
The break would occur in the ninth game, always key, and after a partial dominance of Nadal which became the greatest inspiration from his rival. The fifth round was a reality and defeat, a possibility that had not been raised an hour ago. Rafa I was touched and Tsitsipas he was touched … by a wand.
Nadal says goodbye with honors
Tsitsipas He started with an advantage in the physical, the mental and the tennis, but if Nadal has shown something throughout his sporting career, it is a resilience beyond the reach of any other athlete in history. Tsitsipas’ blows did not disarm the Manacorense, as happened in the fourth set, and the battle seemed more and more even. The Greek, yes, showed a higher physical point that could tip the balance, given the baggage of Rafa, limited until four days ago by a back injury.
Rafa had his options to the rest, always taking his serve forward, took the match to the limit, and forced his rival until he glimpsed a super tie-break that could decide the winner. However, and after more than four hours of fighting, the Manacoran ran out of strength and Tsitsipas, who did not abandon inspiration, knew how to punish Nadal until causing his premature dismissal from the Australian Open. A fall, with honors that postponed the conquest of Rafa’s twenty-first Grand Slam.