2021 in Review: Rafael Nadal suffers one of the toughest losses to Stefanos Tsitsipas

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2021 in Review: Rafael Nadal suffers one of the toughest losses to Stefanos Tsitsipas

World no. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas stunned the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal 3-6, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 in four hours and five minutes in the Australian Open quarter-final! Nadal played on a high level in the opening three sets but failed to cross the finish line in the third set's tie break, losing ground after that to propel Tsitsipas over the finish line despite losing serve only twice.

Stefanos won three points more than Rafa, and there was nothing to separate them in the shortest and more advanced rallies. Nadal fended off three out of five break chances and earned three return games from four opportunities, not enough to emerge at the top.

The Spaniard experienced a loss from two sets to love up only for the third time in his career, giving his everything to stay focused but failing to cross the finish line first. The opening set saw eight solid holds and one loose service game from Tsitsipas.

They both lost six points behind the initial shot, and Nadal grabbed four of those in a single return game that carried him through, backed by only five unforced errors. Rafa closed the first game with a service winner, and Stefanos responded with a hold at love to get his name on the scoreboard.

The Spaniard completed the third game without losing a point and opened a 3-2 gap when the Greek netted a backhand in game five. They held at 30 in games six and seven to remain neck and neck before Rafa scored that decisive break at 4-3 following a massive forehand mistake from Tsitsipas.

Serving for the set, Nadal landed an unreturned serve at 40-30 to secure the opener and gather a huge boost ahead of set number two. Rafa played even better in set number two, hitting 11 winners with five unforced errors and keeping everything under control in his service games.

Tsitsipas could not follow that pace, losing serve twice and finding himself on the edge of defeat on Rod Laver Arena. Rafa landed a forehand down the line winner to steal the rival's serve in the opening game and held at 15 to cement the lead when Stefanos sprayed a backhand mistake.

Nadal returned at 3-1 and secured another break thanks to Tsitsipas' forehand error, extending the advantage and wrapping up the set with a hold at 15 at 5-2. Both players served on a high level in the third set, barely losing a point and reaching the tie break in no time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas came from two sets to love down to beat Rafael Nadal in Melbourne.

Tsitsipas opened it with a backhand unforced error before Nadal sprayed one from his smash, which does not happen that often. Rafa sent another smash long at 3-3 to experience a mini-break and lost the breaker 7-4 for the first upset.

After almost two hours and 20 minutes, Nadal experienced the first break point of the encounter in the fourth set's opening game, saving it with a smash winner to avoid an early setback. Both players served well in the next three games, with more troubles on serve for the Spaniard at 2-2.

Nadal saved two break chances with service winners and held with another unreturned serve for 3-2. Rafa endured another challenging game at 3-3 to pressure the other side. Serving at 4-4, Nadal wasted three game points and suffered a break to find himself 5-4 behind.

The Greek held at 15 in game ten to close the set and force a decider. Starting all over, the 2009 champion fired four winners at 1-1 in the decider but could not find anything on the return to stay until 3-3. The Spaniard closed the seventh game with an ace to stay alive and held at love at 4-4 to move closer to the finish line.

Untroubled on serve since the third set (12 points lost behind the initial shot), Tsitsipas held at 30 to level the score at 5-5 and prolong the drama. Serving in game 11, Nadal suffered a break at love, crumbling under pressure and allowing Tsitsipas to serve for the victory.

Rafa saved a match point in that 12th game and another with a return winner before earning a break chance that Stefanos saved with a strong serve. The Greek converted the third match point with a backhand down the line winner to secure the victory, one of the most remarkable ones of his young career.