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Tsitsipas stuns Nadal in five sets to reach Australian Open semi-final

Earlier, a badly-cramping Daniil Medvedev won a brutal all-Russian clash against Andrey Rublev.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates.
Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates.
Image: Jason Heidrich

Updated Feb 17th 2021, 1:13 PM

GREECE’S STEFANOS TSITSIPAS recovered from two sets down to stun Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarter-finals, ending the Spaniard’s bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

Second seed Nadal was on course for a comfortable victory before Tsitsipas turned the match around to prevail 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 7-5 in a seismic upset.

“I don’t know what happened after the third set – I fly like little bird, everything was working for me,” said Tsitsipas, who hit 49 winners and 17 aces.

“The emotions at the end were indescribable, they were something else.”

The 22-year-old credited a composed temperament for his turnaround. 

“I was able to be consistent with my mood and be calm in the crucial moments,” he said.

“I’ve been trying to keep everything to myself and I’m happy with my attitude I showed on the court.”

It was just the second time Nadal had lost when two sets up in a Grand Slam, having previously fallen to Fabio Fognini in the third round of the 2015 US Open. 

Nadal, 34, remains tied with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles, but Novak Djokovic can pull within two if he wins his 18th major trophy at Melbourne Park.   

Fifth seed Tsitsipas will now attempt to reach a maiden Grand Slam final when he plays the in-form Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final. 

“He’s playing very well and is in good shape. I know he is going to give me a difficult time on the court,” said Tsitsipas, who has a 1-5 record against the Russian.

“I need to recover and do a nice ice bath.”  

He beat Nadal for just the second time in eight matches. Djokovic will play the other semi-final against Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.

Nadal, sweating profusely in the muggy conditions, was in vintage form until a nerveless Tsitsipas turned the match on its head after snatching the tiebreak in the third set.

The momentum shifted towards Tsitsipas in the fourth set and he finally cracked Nadal’s serve to force a deciding set.

Both players served well under pressure in a tense fifth set before Tsitsipas gained the pivotal break in the 11th game and then clinched his memorable victory with a backhand winner down the line.      

That drama had appeared unlikely when an aggressive Nadal cruised through the opening two sets, toying with Tsitsipas and moving him around the court.  

Tsitsipas, however, hung in there to force a third set tiebreak, where Nadal’s loose play ultimately proved fatal.

Nadal was hoping to end a 12-year drought at the Australian Open, the only Slam he has not won multiple times.  

Earlier, a badly-cramping Medvedev won a brutal all-Russian clash against Andrey Rublev to move into his first Australian Open semi-final, warning he was playing at “an amazing level”. 

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The fourth seed had more firepower than his younger, eighth-seeded rival in scorching conditions on Rod Laver Arena, grinding him down 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 to extend his win-streak to 19 matches.

australian-open-2021-day-ten-melbourne-park Daniil Medvedev beat fellow Russian Andrey Rublev. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

“I would say the three last points when I was getting ready for the serve I could not really move my left leg,” he said, with both players cramping in the “super-tough” conditions.

“But I’ve known him a long time and I know how to neutralise his big shots. That’s definitely one of the best matches I’ve played lately, not even just here but last year,” Medvedev added.

Medvedev is now riding a 19-match run dating back to November, taking in titles at the Paris 1000, the ATP Finals in London and the ATP Cup with Russia in the lead-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year.

He is into his first semi at Melbourne Park as he continues to knock on the door of Grand Slam success, having reached the 2019 US Open final and the last four in New York in 2020.

“Andrey I think at this moment is on fire, starting last year, so he was definitely for me one of the favourites to go far in this tournament,” Medvedev said. 

“To win this match in three sets, especially how physical it was, I mean, it was an amazing level from me, and I’m really happy about it.” 

Medvedev owned a 3-0 advantage against his former junior foe ahead of their clash, having beaten him over three tough sets at their last meeting in the 2020 US Open quarter-finals.

And little separated them in the opening set on Thursday as they traded long baseline rallies until a stunning passing shot gave Medvedev his first break points in game 12, which he calmly converted to take the set.

Using ice-towels to keep his temperature down, Medvedev was relentless.

After a marathon, 43-shot rally, where he covered 130 metres around the court, he earned another break point at 3-2 in the second set, but Rublev hung on.

However, it was only a matter of time before he struck again and after Rublev hit a stray forehand in game eight to give him a 5-3 lead, Medvedev served out for the set.

Rublev, who had made three Slam quarter-finals before but never gone further, looked exhausted and Medvedev broke straight away in the third set.

Rublev quickly went 0-3 down, shaking his head at the changeover as he sloshed water on his face to try to revive himself. 

But he was spent and Medvedev shut out the pain of cramping leg to reach the finish line.

© – AFP, 2021

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