SportRafa Nadal is indestructible: he resurrects against Shapovalov and...

Rafa Nadal is indestructible: he resurrects against Shapovalov and is already in the semis

Rafael Nadal is the hero of tennis. The Australian Open owed him one and fate gave him the final push that his talent and resilience had more than earned. The Spanish tennis player overcame his stomach problems, which left him out of the game when he dominated Denis Shapovalov by two sets to one, but they did not prevent him from coming back on his own and culminating an epic victory, one of the biggest of his career, in a thriller of five sets (6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3) at the Rod Laver Arena.

It was four hours and eight minutes of a three-round battle. In the first, Nadal was on the verge of KO but took the not inconsiderable prize of the first two sets, as well as an insulting feeling of superiority against one of the present and future talents of the ATP. In the second, Shapovalov struck within equality and Rafa was knocked out by a problem, apparently stomach, which took him away from the battle. He returned against the ropes, reeling in the third and final, where he took out his category and an unbalancing talent at a historical level to resubmit his candidacy for the title in Australia.

The meeting that opened the quarterfinals of the Australian Open was one of the most attractive that can be seen today on the circuit. A left-handed derby with a double serving of spice. The first, put by a Nadal who has gone from months of inactivity to his undefeated status with which he is presenting a candidacy in Melbourne, in his cursed Grand Slam and in his cursed round, the penultimate. The second, the challenge of a NextGen like Shapovalov , with plenty of talent and differential in creativity, against one of his childhood idols. The battle was served –once again– in the Spanish dawn.

Nadal was playing a match against Shapovalov , but at the same time he was also playing for history. The man from Manacor returned to the quarterfinals, his cursed round at the Australian Open , in which he said goodbye seven times in his career, including the last two with very tough defeats against Thiem and, above all, Tsitsipas in 2021. Revenge could be with Denis , whom Rafa has blessed and assured that he will win “several” Grand Slams. But it couldn’t be, for his own good, in this Australian summer.

First set of ’10’

Rafa should have started perfectly and he started perfectly, with an unrealistic percentage of first services that was around 90% and monopolized the game. Shapovalov, who still has a long way to go mentally, was put to the test from minute one by the starting level of his rival and did not know how to manage the times proposed by the veteran Spanish tennis player very well. Nadal had put the bolt on his serve, which he carried out with admirable punctuality, giving up a point in each of his at-bats, while Denis hooked up in the fourth game of the match to give the necessary advantage to the 2009 champion, who led a first set 6-3 that was a lesson in how to play a quarterfinal.

There were two thirds of the cake left and Rafa wanted to eat it patiently. Knowing that the serve was not going to accompany him in the way it had in the first set, the Spaniard had already detected a hole in Shapovalov ‘s backhand, his most magical but also most irregular shot, and began to open it to back up with the rise, more than logical, of the Canadian’s level.

Shapovalov gets upset, Nadal hits

The games passed with equality and in between, with a regrettable version of Denis , who faced the chair umpire Carlos Bernardes as a sign of protest for an alleged loss of time by Nadal between sets. This did not throw the Spaniard off center, nor a priori his opponent, but Shapovalov ‘s hyperactivity was increased by the incident and this did not help him against Rafael’s maximum temperance, who continued with his class and, as in the first set, He was going to take advantage of the slightest gap to the rest to break his rival and place himself with an advantage on the way to the end of the second set.

At 5-3, Shapovalov brought out his best version, the one that for Nadal is worth several grands, to save himself from a new break that could have been definitive in the mental battle. A winning forehand, a sliced backhand and a volley worthy of Sampras, the Canadian’s catalog is worth mentioning, but on the mental plane Rafa is unmatched and tactically, too. 6-4 with hardly any doubts and one step away from the semifinals.

One more battle to win for a semi-final that was less expensive than expected but would rise in price with the growth of Shapovalov . Without doing anything too special beyond the inspiration on his forehand, Denis jumped on the bandwagon of the match taking advantage of a noticeable slump on Nadal ‘s serve. The Spaniard continued to find free points, but he also lost them with too many double faults that would cause suffering.

The stomach knocks out Rafa Nadal

Rafa , in the middle of the set, raised with merit a 15-40 that would be a warning for what was going to happen later. Shapovalov was not much better on serve, but the dubious strategy of tossing a coin in the air and playing first and second worked for him in his particular suffering game in the third set, until reaching 5-4 in his favor. Then, Nadal lost all kinds of confidence on serve, he made two double faults and Shapo , with a trademark backhand, scored the third set to make his options flourish again in the match.

What was circulating wind in favor had turned against and what was most worrying was Nadal ‘s attitude. Head down, prisoner of the loss of the set due to his own mistakes, the man from Manacor saw how Shapovalov broke his serve again, but the consequences were even worse. Rafa asked Bernardes to call the doctor immediately, suffering from stomach problems that were going to leave him out of the game for enough minutes to see the fourth set go.

It is not worth analyzing the game because Nadal , directly, was not going for the balls. He was able to get one at the service playing two-three shots and refused to make the break, he was even close, but Shapovalov also played, and a lot, and deservedly took a fourth set marked by Nadal ‘s indigestion, very touched for the fifth and decisive that would choose the first semifinalist of the Open.

Nadal, the superhero, to the semifinals

The affront was of category, of almost impossible solution for anyone, but not for Rafa . Somewhat recovered thanks to the pill that the doctor gave him and the air received during the breaks, Rafa returned from the locker room with a clear tactic and carried it out like a charm. He had to hit first and did so on serve, but he also had to hit one more time to get a cushion, and Shapovalov ‘s nerves, shaken by the situation, gave him the break to drink with for the rest of the deciding set.

Agitator when he played, sure again with the serve after a dozen double faults and calculating to throw the games when Shapovalov went 30-0 on serve, Nadal , with the break as a shield and his forehand as a sword, stood with 5- 3 to complete the machada and blow up a crowd that no longer sat in their seats. There was no more drama, there were no more doubts. At the first match point Rafa , without even the strength to throw himself on the ground, smiled, looked at his team and finally believed it. He had beaten the curse of the quarterfinals and is in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

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