Rafael Nadal squandered a two-set lead, falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open quarterfinals and ending his first bid to break the men’s Grand Slam singles titles record.
Tsitsipas, the fifth seed, rallied to win 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 over the second-seeded Nadal, who had been 223-1 when taking the first two sets in a Grand Slam match. The Greek gets fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev in a Friday semifinal.
“I’m speechless. I have no words to describe what just happened out on the court,” Tsitsipas said in an on-court interview inside an empty Rod Laver Arena. “My tennis speaks out for itself.
“I started very nervous, I won’t lie. I don’t know what happened after the third set. I flied like a little bird.”
AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men
Nadal, who came into the tournament with a back injury that kept him out of a lead-up event, said it didn’t bother him Thursday. Physically he was “not fantastic but not bad.”
“He played better than me probably in important moments. Was an equal match,” Nadal said. “I stayed positive all the time during the match, fighting. And was not enough. Sometimes it’s enough. Today was not enough.
“Just another story in my tennis career. That’s it. No, another match I lost here in Australia with important advantage, and just accept and keep going. That’s the life.”
The other semifinal pits record eight-time Australian Open champ Novak Djokovic against 114th-ranked Russian Aslan Karatsev, the first man to make the semifinals in his Grand Slam main draw debut in the Open Era (since 1968).
That match is Thursday at 3:30 a.m. ET, after Serena Williams plays Naomi Osaka in the women’s semifinals at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
In Melbourne, Nadal took his first crack at breaking the men’s Grand Slam singles titles record he shares with Roger Federer. Nadal won his record-tying 20th major at the French Open in October, his record-extending 13th Roland Garros crown.
Nadal was also looking to become the first man to win all four Grand Slams twice in a career in the Open Era.
Federer, 39, missed the Australian Open, his third consecutive major absence, after two knee surgeries.
Now, Djokovic has the opportunity to move within two major titles of both of them. He is two match wins from an 18th Slam, though Nadal will likely be favored to win his 21st at the next major — the French Open in late May.
With Nadal’s loss, Djokovic is guaranteed a 311th week as world No. 1 in March, passing Federer for that all-time record, according to the ATP.
Earlier Wednesday, top-ranked Ash Barty was stunned in the quarterfinals. More on that and the women’s semifinals here.
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