Melbourne – Smiling but determined, Rafael Nadal fended off accusations of a top star’s bonus after winning the semi-finals at the Australian Open.
With a show of strength over five sets and more than four hours despite stomach problems, the Spanish tennis veteran averted the impending end to Alexander Zverev’s conqueror. Thanks to the 6: 3, 6: 4, 4: 6, 3: 6, 6: 3 against the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the 35-year-old came one step closer to the Grand Slam record. Shapovalov’s tirade that Nadal was given preferential treatment by the referee didn’t bother him at all on Tuesday in Melbourne.
“I never felt like I had any advantages on the pitch and I really think he’s wrong,” said Nadal: “He’s young. We all make mistakes in our careers. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger.” Shapovalov will probably later understand that he wasn’t right today.
When Nadal felt like he was taking a little too much time after the first set before appearing at the baseline ready for the return, Shapovalov had raged. “You are all corrupt,” the 22-year-old scolded the Brazilian referee Carlos Bernardes when Nadal did not receive the warning he felt was necessary for exceeding the time limit.
“I think Denis was pissed at that moment because the referee called ‘time’ and it took me about 30 extra seconds to change my clothes,” said Nadal. “I think at the moment it’s fair that Carlos gave me the time.” Shapovalov, with some detachment, took back the expression corrupt. “It’s unfair how Rafa is getting away with it,” he said. The referee’s behavior is a “big joke.” When asked if he thought Nadal was given preferential treatment, the Canadian replied: “100 percent.” Again and again Nadal dragged the time.
Stomach problems at Nadal
The tension over five sets that this match should have was not foreseeable for a long time. Against the Wimbledon semi-finalist, Nadal did a lot better with his presence and consistency than Zverev did in his round of 16 defeat. The 2009 Melbourne winners led 2-0 sets before staggering. In the Melbourne heat, stomach problems plagued him and he lost his sovereignty. “I was completely devastated. heavy day Very warm, »explained Nadal.
The question of his physical condition was a topic of discussion before the start of the tournament. Nevertheless, Nadal had largely marched safely through the early rounds. However, his troubles this Tuesday had nothing to do with the foot injury that kept him out of action for months at the end of last season. The pills for the stomach in the fourth set only helped to a limited extent, Nadal explained in the winner’s interview.
When it looked like Shapovalov, who was 13 years his junior, had the upper hand, Nadal quickly took the lead in the deciding set, also thanks to slight mistakes by his opponent. Nadal disappeared from the arena for several minutes before the fifth section. “You feel like you’re not only playing against the player, but also against the referee,” Shapovalov scolded.
Berrettini in the semifinals
When the last ball was played, the Canadian destroyed his racquet. Nadal nodded, stretched his arms towards the sky and tilted his head back. Now he can create tennis history. “Two months ago we didn’t know if I would come back on the tour. It’s a gift for me to be able to play tennis again.”
13 years after the only Melbourne triumph so far, only two wins separate Nadal from the next trophy. Instead of the Serbian record champion Novak Djokovic, who was expelled from the country, the fifth in the world rankings will play in the semifinals on Friday against the Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini. Also in five sets, the now first Italian men’s semi-finalist from Melbourne defeated the Frenchman Gael Monfils 6: 4, 6: 4, 3: 6, 3: 6, 6: 2.
Should Nadal actually triumph on Sunday, he would secure the sole record with his 21st title in a Grand Slam tournament. The fact that Djokovic and his Swiss rival Roger Federer (both 20 wins) are not present for very different reasons has opened the door wide for him.
Ashleigh Barty wants to make his debut in the Melbourne final on Thursday. In the quarter-finals she outclassed Jessica Pegula, the American who was in 21st place, 6-2, 6-0. Barty also wants to write a very special chapter of success and become the first Australian to win the Australian Open since Chris O’Neil in 1978. In the semifinals, Barty meets former US Open finalist Madison Keys of the USA, who defeated Czech French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 6-2.