MELBOURNE, Australia — (AP) — Rafael Nadal held off Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in four hours to reach the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time and keep his bid on track for a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.
Nadal shares the record of 20 with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for most singles titles at the men’s tennis majors. Neither of these two are in Melbourne.
Nadal was dominant for the first 2 1/2 sets against number 14 Shapovalov, but seemed to be hampered at times by a stomach problem in the third and fourth sets.
In a tournament where he has only won the title once (2009) and lost seven of his previous 13 quarter-finals – by far his worst conversion rate in any of the four major tournaments – Nadal has suddenly looked vulnerable.
But after a seven-minute break between the final point of the fourth set and his first serve in the fifth, he recovered enough to hold and then break Shapovalov’s serve for a 2-0 lead in the tiebreaker.
He hung on on the break and when he won the game, Nadal went to the corner and nodded a few times and gave a quiet fist celebration. Then he returned to the field and celebrated as he should. Shapovalov left a broken racquet on the court.
“I was completely destroyed. Difficult day. Very warm,” Nadal said. “At the start of the game I was playing very well (but) Denis is very talented, very aggressive. He was serving a lot – especially the second serve.
“I think I had my chances at the start of the third. I did not understand. I started to feel a little more tired. For me, it’s incredible to be in the semi-finals.
The men’s semi-finals are both scheduled for Friday, giving Nadal two days off.
“I’m not 21 anymore!” he said. “After that… it’s great to have two days off.
“I felt pretty good physically in terms of movement. At least it was a good test. I really believe that I will be ready for the semi-finals.
Nadal will face either seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini or No.17 Gael Monfils. Berrettin was Wimbledon finalist last year; Monfils is 35 and playing his second quarter-final in 17 trips to Australia.
Madison Keys continued her resurgent 2022 season by reaching the semi-finals in Australia for the first time since 2015 with a 6-3, 6-2 win over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
And resurgent might be a major understatement.
The hour and 25 minute win over Krejcikova contained 11 aces, 27 winners and only one service game dropped and was her 10th straight win and 11th of the new year.
That includes five wins so far at Melbourne Park, starting with a straight-sets victory over Australian Open 2020 winner Sofia Kenin, plus five winning the Adelaide International – her first title since 2019 – and a at a previous tournament in Melbourne.
She won just 11 games in 2021, saying she was too focused on results, and her year-end ranking dropped to 56th. It was the first time since 2014 that she finished outside the Top 20.
“I’ve done everything I can to rest this offseason and focus on a fresh start . . . start from scratch and not focus on last year,” Keys said in his interview. on the pitch. “I think it’s going well so far!”
She lost an Australian Open semi-final to Serena Williams in 2015, her first trip to the last four at a major tournament. She reached the final of the 2017 US Open and the semi-finals of Roland Garros and the US Open in 2018, but had not returned to the last four of a Grand Slam since then.
The feeling in Melbourne will be very different. She could face Ash Barty, an Australian or fellow American Jessica Pegula.
“I’m seven years older and this isn’t my first Slam semi-final,” she said. “I think I’m a little better prepared this time around than I was all those years ago.”
Krejcikova took a medical timeout as she led 5-2 in the first set due to what could have been heat stress, and looked lethargic at times during the 35-minute second set.
Temperatures peaked at around 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) under nearly cloudless skies.
“It was the heat with certain physical conditions that started to bother me after five games,” said Krejcikova, who still plays in the doubles draw. “I mean, from there, you know, I just couldn’t put it together.
“I struggled with something. Yeah, it was happening and I didn’t feel good. I just don’t want to talk about it because I think Madison, she really deserves the win and she really deserves to have credit. “
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