Rafael Nadal suffered a massive blow at the last year's Australian Open, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas 3-6, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 in four hours and five minutes. Nadal injured his back in Adelaide a few weeks earlier and did not know what to expect in Melbourne.
Still, he defeated four rivals in straight sets to advance into the quarters, where he opened a massive gap against Tsitsipas. Nonetheless, the Greek survived the third set's tie break, gathered momentum and overpowered the Spaniard to deliver one of Rafa's most brutal losses at Majors!
Nadal held everything under control in the opening two sets and had the opportunity to seal the deal in the third before spraying some loose errors in the tie break. Stefanos was already playing well after set number two, gathering a boost in that third and never looking back in his service games.
The pressure was on Rafa in sets four and five, and he could not endure it after losing the drive, getting broken once in each to propel the young Greek over the finish line and hit the exit door. It was only the third defeat for the great Spaniard after taking two sets to love lead and the second at Majors!
Rafael Nadal lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets in Melbourne last year.
From the fourth set, Rafa lost the pace a bit with his groundstrokes. Simultaneously, Stefanos threw everything he had on his opponent, delivering one good hold after another and completing his most remarkable career victory.
Sharing his thoughts about the encounter, Mats Wilander said that Nadal should be fine in a couple of weeks, knowing he plays on a high level and waiting for the clay swing with positive vibes. The Swede stated that Nadal also had bad luck while trying to seal the deal in straight sets, playing some loose shots and losing ground to suffer a tough defeat.
Rafa bounced back in style a few weeks ago to claim the second Australian Open crown and become the first player with 21 Major titles. "Rafa will probably be off for two or three weeks. He has not been able to win the Australian Open after that lone 2009 crown, and I think he is going to shrug it off and realize, 'maybe I was not strong enough physically to keep this level up.'
He was going for big shots; that's not him, and it did not work. Rafa will return to the practice court, hit some balls and realize that he is at the same level as the last year's Roland Garros. He played great against Tsitsipas, and it was bad luck that he could not cross the finish line first," Mats Wilander said.