Nadal survives Open scare from Shapovalov

Oliver Caffrey |

Rafael Nadal has survived a serious scare from next-generation ace Denis Shapovalov to book his spot in a seventh Australian Open semi-final.

The Spanish legend seemed to be cruising through his quarter-final clash, taking the opening two sets, but the Canadian 14th seed hit back to extend Nadal.

Incredibly, Nadal’s 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 win on Tuesday ensured at least one of the Big Three has made the last-four for the 70th time in the past 71 grand slam events.

The only time it did not happen since 2004 came at the 2020 US Open when Nadal and Roger Federer weren’t playing and Novak Djokovic was defaulted in the fourth round for recklessly hitting a ball that struck a lineswoman.

But Nadal’s victory did not come easy as he dealth with stomach issues during the match and was in danger of bowing out at the quarter-final stage of the Open for the third consecutive year.

Nadal will return to action on Friday against the winner of the clash between French veteran Gael Monfils and Italian Matteo Berrettini for a place in the final.

Without Federer and Djokovic at Melbourne Park, Nadal now has an opportunity to be the first man to win 21 grand slam titles.

The three greats are locked on 20 major wins each, but the 35-year-old could reclaim the lead outright by breaking through for his second Open title.

Of all four grand slams, the first of the calendar year has been Nadal’s least successful in terms of silverware.

After defeating Federer in the 2009 final, Nadal has lost four deciders (2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019) on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal cruised through the first two sets against Shapovalov, who could not hide his frustration after dropping the opener.

He lost his cool at the umpire early in the second, shouting “you guys are all corrupt”, because he believed Nadal should have been called for a time violation.

Shapovalov did regain his composure, however, to force a deciding set but Nadal marshalled his resources off court with a medical time-out and then returned to break serve in the second game to wrest back the momentum.

Shapovalov — who ousted third seed Alexander Zverev in straight sets in the fourth round — was furious with himself after his volley went wide on match point, breaking his racquet in disgust as Nadal celebrated.