Rafael Nadal experienced one of his toughest physical challenges of the season in the Australian Open quarter-final. Rafa faced Denis Shapovalov and scored a 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 victory in four hours and eight minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
The Spaniard struggled with stomach issues since the fourth set and barely survived a challenging encounter under a boiling Melbourne sun. The more experienced player claimed the opening three games of the decider to forge the crucial advantage and bring the victory home.
Nadal lost four kilos and looked forward to two days off after leaving the court completely destroyed! Rafa scored his fourth victory over Denis from five encounters and moved into his 36th Major semi-final, the seventh in Melbourne.
Nadal won 13 points more than Shapovalov, playing better behind the first serve and defending six out of eight break chances. The Spaniard grabbed three breaks in sets he won and served well to bring the victory home and remain on the title course.
Shapovalov fired 20 aces and over 50 winners and unforced errors, staying aggressive and rushing to the net. The Canadian had a slight advantage in the shortest and most extended exchanges. The more experienced player erased that deficit in the mid-range rallies, where he forged his victory.
Rafa dropped only five points behind the initial shot in the first set and kept the pressure on the other side. Denis sprayed a forehand error to lose serve at love in game four and fall 3-1 behind. World no. 5 fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the next one to cement the advantage and held at 15 in game seven for 5-2.
Rafa served for the opener in game nine and smashed a booming serve to take it 6-3 in 39 minutes. Shapovalov raised his level on the return a bit in set number two. However, more was needed to create break chances. Nadal held after deuces in game six for 3-3 and broke the young gun in the next one after a smash winner at the net.
Rafael Nadal prevailed against Denis Shapovalov in Melbourne.
Rafa grabbed the eighth game with a service winner for 5-3 and forced the rival's mistake in game ten for 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 39 minutes. The Canadian stayed in touch in the third set and secured the ninth game with a service winner for 5-4.
Denis created three set points on the return in game ten and cracked a backhand crosscourt winner to wrap up the set and force the fourth after two and a half hours. Shapovalov broke again in the fourth set's fourth game after Nadal's double fault to build the lead and settle into a fine rhythm.
Denis served for the set at 5-3 and sprayed a forehand error to face two break points. The youngster saved them with winners and fired a service winner to secure the set and introduce a decider after three hours and 16 minutes.
Nadal saved a break point in the fifth set's first game with an ace and made a vital hold with a brilliant volley winner at the net. Rafa created two break chances in the second game after Denis' double fault and converted the second to build the advantage.
Shapovalov squandered a break chance in the third game after a loose backhand, and Nadal saved the second with an unreturned serve. The young gun played another wayward backhand to propel the veteran 3-0 in front. Rafa held at 30 in game five for 4-1 and landed a service winner two games later for 5-2.
The Spaniard served for the victory in game nine and held at 15 to wrap up the duel and advance into the last four.