Melbourne | Nadal storms into last four
Rafa Nadal romped into the semi-finals of the Australian Open in ruthless fashion as he swept aside Frances Tiafoe in straight sets to stamp his authority over one of the NextGen players vying to dislodge him from the top of the game.
“I am playing well. I did a lot of things well during the whole week and a half. Rafa Nadal
Any question that his health might be hindering him bearing in mind that he has been away from the tour nursing a knee problem. However, his five-match run into the last four without dropping a set, would indicate that he is at the top of his form.
“I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things I went through,” said Nadal after his 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory.
“Not easy situations,” the Spaniard world No.2 added bearing in mind that he quit during his quarterfinal at Melbourne Park a year ago with a right leg problem, and then again during his semi-final at the U.S. Open in September with a painful right knee which he followed up with surgery on his right ankle during the off season.
Nothing though seemed to hamper him, least of all Tiafoe’s speed and powerful game, making his first appearance in the latter stages of a grand slam.
The American who celebrated his 21st birthday by beating Grigor Dimitrov to make the last eight, found himself from the outset, dealing with a barrage of top-spin and angles, powerful serving and forceful play as the 32-year-old Nadal claimed 20 of his first 23 service points and saved the only two break chances he faced.
“I knew he was going to bring crazy intensity. I knew the ball was going to be jumping. I knew if he got hold of a forehand, it was going to be barbecued chicken,” Tiafoe revealed. “But point in, point out, I’ve never seen someone so locked in.”
Earlier Stedfanos Tsitsipas, who dumped Roger Federer out of the championships, defeated Nadal’s compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets and will now face the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
And the 20-year-old Greek is in confident mood but so is the 2009 champion who has tweaked his serve in what looks like a positive way.
Nadal spoke after Tuesday’s win about going for winners on his first forehand following a serve, something he called “very important … at this stage of my career.”
He added, “I am playing well. I did a lot of things well during the whole week and a half.”
Nadal required just 107 minutes to complete his fifth win of the event.
He started as he meant to continue – pressing his opponent by breaking him in the opening game and then romping through the set to claim it in just 31-minutes.
The second set was a virtual repeat of the first as he kept Tiafoe, the world No. 39, bidding to become the youngest American to make the semis since Andy Roddick in 2003, pinned on the baseline.
He broke Tiafoe again in the first game of the third set to end any fading hopes that the American could mount a comeback but was embarrassed somewhat by John McEnroe during the on-court interview when he was asked to strip off and flex his muscles in the manner Tiafoe does in celebrating his own wins!
“Being honest, I don’t have his body” Nadal replied nervously to which McEnroe replied: “You could have fooled me. It looks pretty damn good to me.”
Returning to the match itself, Nadal admitted that the NextGen stars were now ready to mix with them. “I said a couple of rounds ago that they can wait to beat us,” he said,
“But it looks like they don’t want to wait. They are here. Frances is here in the quarter-finals, Stefanos in the semi-finals.
“It is going to be a great year in terms of sharing generations that makes this sport special. It will be interesting. Let’s see what happens.”