Rafael Nadal’s bid for a record breaking 21st Major title was ended by Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who fought back from two sets down to reach the Australian Open semifinals on Wednesday.
Tsitsipas, 22, stunned second seeded Nadal 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 and will now face Russia's Daniil Medvedev on Friday.
"I'm speechless, I have no words to describe what just happened on court," said Tsitsipas after the match. "My tennis speaks for itself. It is an unbelievable feeling to fight at such a level and give it my all on the court. I started very nervous, I won't lie. I don't know what happened after the third set. I flew like a little bird.
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"Everything worked for me and the feelings are indescribable,” he added.
Things looked bleak for the big-serving Greek going into the match. And, after the first two sets, it seemed as though Nadal would steamroll him. Tsitsipas committed 20 unforced errors, handing out the momentum to the 34-year-old Spaniard.
Tsitsipas, though, remained composed and dragged Nadal into a physical battle which drained the usually relentless Spaniard. Tsitsipas cut out the errors from the third set and pounced on crucial moments thereafter, including the victory in the tiebreak in the third set which swung momentum in favour of him.
"I focused a lot on staying calm and holding my nerves, it is a very important element for me," said Tsitsipas. "I have failed to do it in some of my matches. A big part of my win was staying calm in the crucial tight moments."
With increasing confidence, Tsitsipas pushed Nadal further back on the court and applied pressure on his service games. The narrative was similar in the fourth and fifth sets as errors crept into Nadal’s game.
"I can't find a lot of excuses or reasons," said Nadal.
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"It was a little bit of everything. I missed a couple of balls in the tie-break that I could not miss if I wanted to win. And that's it,” he added. "I should be ready to play for four hours. I think my physical shape holds up quite well.
"But it is true that I probably needed a little bit more time because I was in great shape and for 20 days I was not able to practise the way that I expected, not able to play one single match in ATP Cup."
Earlier, fourth seeded Medvedev beat compatriot Andrey Rublev to reach the last four. The 25-year-old won 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 as Rublev, the seventh seed, struggled in the searing heat at Melbourne Park.
Muchova Stuns Barty
World No. 1 and tournament favourite Ashleigh Barty exited her home Grand Slam after getting stunned by Karolina Muchova in the quarterfinals. The 24-year-old Czech made a remarkable comeback to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.
"I actually have one memory from here when I was a kid and got my first notebook," Muchova said after the victory. "I put it as a wallpaper Rod Laver, the stadium. I was just, like, I hope one day it would be nice to play there or to look at the arena or whatever. Now I just won a match and made it to the semifinals. It's amazing."
Barty came out of the blocks fastest, racing into a 5-0 lead in just 16 minutes into the match. Muchova won just one game in that opening set and seemed at sea against the relentless Aussie.
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After Barty extended her lead to 2-0 in the second set, it looked like the home fans would get an Australian to cheer for in the semis. But Muchova took a 10-minute medical break at this point and returned a different player.
"I started feeling a bit lost by the end of the first set. Ash started very good, she played almost like no mistakes, it was very tough. And I was a bit lost on the court, and my head was spinning (with dizziness) so I took a break," explained Muchova.
"They just checked my (blood) pressure because I was a bit lost, you know? I was spinning. So they cooled me down a bit with ice, and it helped me. (When I returned I) just tried to put a ball in and go for it. Played a bit faster, going to the net. I think that was the key by the end."
Barty was, understandably, frustrated with the medical break that took the momentum away from her.
"I don't write the rules. I abide by them. All of us players, we abide by the rules that are written," Barty said post match.
"It's not my place to comment here whether she had an injury or not. That's the physios and the doctors,” she added. "Obviously that she's taken her medical timeout meant that there was something wrong. She was within the rules, within the guidelines to take that time."
Muchova will now face US Open semi finalist Jennifer Brady on Thursday -- who beat her compatriot Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in her quarterfinal match. The winner of this unheralded semi final will make it to a Grand Slam final for the first time in their careers. And across the net will either be a superstar chasing a grand old record or a modern day prodigy with three Grand Slams already under her belt.
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