Rafael Nadal reached the semifinal on the Melbourne Park at the Australian Open 2022 for the seventh time in his career as Ivan Lendl. The Spanish champion keeps Denis Shapovalov at bay for two and a half sets before accusing problems.
He hits the double digits with double faults, lacks breath and strength during the fourth, but sips his energy in a practically perfect way in the final rush and after just over four hours he takes advantage of the Canadian's carelessness.
Evidently conditioned by circumstances, evidently terrified of victory. This is the difference. Nadal thus reaches the thirty-seventh Grand Slam semifinal since 2005 and from a rather privileged position he waits for the match between Matteo Berrettini and Gael Monfils.
Pearl number twenty-one is just missing two hits. Nadal approaches the challenge in a courageous way. He tries to stick to the bottom line and above all not to grant points of reference in prolonged exchanges. He is stubborn on the straight-against-straight diagonal at 30-15 in the sixth game, but still manages the first small moment of difficulty with authority.
In the game immediately following the Spanish champion manages to move on the straight and explode on the line at the start: 'Shapo' then contributes to the cause with a disaster near the net and a rather trivial mistake at 30-40.
The rest is a completely necessary side dish. The Canadian talent, extremely foul and hasty in tactical choices, is hooked to the advantages in the sixth game but pays some carelessness in the seventh. Nadal, who serves in a practically perfect way, called to defend the break advantage in the last two games does not make any particular changes to the script.
Even he manages to get a chance for the double break near the second goal. Unresponsive from the scoring situation, and with his back practically against the wall, Shapovalov makes decisive changes to the tactical plan and practically with the margin of error close to zero he returns wildly.
Australian Open 2022: Rafael Nadal never dies!
He is saved, yes, in the opening game at 0-30, but above all he begins to glimpse cracks in the Majorcan's wall. Like a bolt from the blue, Nadal commits a very bloody double fault at 0-15 in the tenth game and fails to organize himself with his feet at 0-30.
He saves himself with an ace at 0-40, but once again fails to enter the rally when he finds himself called to cancel the second set point. This is the prelude to a new game. The dynamics change completely: also because Shapovalov takes courage and manages to put his feet on the pitch right from the answer.
Nadal, who accuses of problems, struggles to find points with the second ball and makes a rather gross mistake in the fourth game at 30-30. The very Spanish champion, evidently conditioned by the heat and a pain near the stomach, asks for the intervention of the physiotherapist and the doctor.
Upon returning to the field, he struggles to move his feet and keep up with the pace of exchanges. At 2-5 he practically relies only on the serve-volley scheme. Shapovalov, as per protocol, makes good and bad weather when he has the chance to put the games on a level playing court.
He slips to 15-40, but restores the hierarchy with three aces and two winning straight. Nadal finds himself in the fifth set for the thirty-sixth time in his career. And for the twenty-third he proves to be the strongest. At least the most experienced.
After a decidedly complicated turn, in which he manages to save himself from the advantages with a flash near the net, the Majorcan just waits for Shapovalov. After two rather trivial mistakes (both with the forehand and both on the line) the Canadian dirties the notebook with a double fault and actually gives Nadal the chance to put his head forward.
Fundamental joint for the success of the third game, with the 2009 champion who clings almost completely to the service and errors with the backhand of those present on the opposite side of the net. Shapovalov does not use two balls for the counterbreak and in the following three rounds of response he is no longer able to find valid solutions. Nadal, who sips his energies almost perfectly, at the threshold of four and ten hours of play closes the practice.