Nadal 2-3 Tsitsipas

Nadal stopped walking in the Australian Open

Second seed lost to Tsitsipas after 5 sets, with scores of 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 4-6, 5-7 in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on the evening of February 17, respectively.

The first two sets of the 2021 Australian Open quarter-final match are reminiscent of the semi-finals two years ago. At that time, Stefanos Tsitsipas was a phenomenon, beating the king of the tournament – Roger Federer – in the fourth round, and entering the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time. However, Rafael Nadal quickly decoded the Greek juniors after three sets, including one white set.

Compared to the 2019 match, Nadal’s first two sets this year are even easier. After winning the decisive ball game in the first set, leading 5-3 and ending the set with a score of 6-3, “Clay King” continued to press Tsitsipas at the beginning of the second set and immediately won the first game to block the ball first. Tsitsipas struggled with his forte of thunder serve, but the heavy psychological pressure made him make a mistake in the third delivery game. With a 1-5 lead, Tsitsipas lost another set with a score of 2-6.

Seven times before, Nadal lost only one, but it was a difficult defeat for the Spaniard. On the forte clay court, in the five-time championship tournament, the player born in 1986 made many confusing mistakes and guarded the racket in front of Tsitsipas juniors. The same thing was repeated in this year’s Australian Open. No one expected, when Nadal finished the goal, and Tsitsipas showed signs of stiffness, the game turned around in the third set.

Nadal easily overcame Tsitsipas in the first two sets.  Photo: AP.

Nadal easily overcame Tsitsipas in the first two sets. Image: AP.

The main reason why Nadal stopped being in the Tsitsipas serve. The 22-year-old is no longer trying to take direct points, but tries to serve with a steady hand. Tsitsipas’s one-to-one serve rate soared to 89 percent, compared to 67 percent (set one) and 55 percent (set two), and kept him from facing a break point.

When the two players entered the tie-break in the third set, Tsitsipas’s physical advantage came into play. Not playing in the fourth round, due to rival Matteo Berrettini withdrawing due to injury, the Greek player has more than two days off compared to Nadal. He overcame his mistake on the first serve, brought a series of tie-breaks to a 3-3 draw, before repeatedly pressed Nadal left. In a series of durable balls, which seem to be an advantage for “King of the Clay”, Nadal proved inaccurate. He let his juniors lead 6-4, then failed in the decision.

Tsitsipas awoke from the third set, and won against Nadal.  Photo: EPA.

Tsitsipas awoke from the third set, and won against Nadal. Image: EPA.

The gameplay in the third set was promoted by Tsitsipas in the other two sets. Fourth set, you didn’t give Nadal a break point. In contrast, the Spaniard was only able to save three out of four break points. 32 mistakes, until he made a mistake in the fifth handover game that made Nadal hit set five for the first time when he met his juniors.

Being 0-2 down and equaling 2-2 made Tsitsipas excited. Heavy serve returns to the Greek player in the decisive set. The only difference from the first two sets, is accuracy. In nearly an hour of competition in the fifth set, Tsitsipas served seven times, twice as much as Nadal (three times). He also made no double mistakes, and maintained a high one-to-one serve rate – 83 percent.

To win against Nadal, even on a hard court, it still needs courage. Tsitsipas showed that in the last game, leading 6-5. The Greek player was led 0-30, but he calmly equalized 30-30, then led 40-30. However, the minute of greed for winner, also the match point of Tsitsipas, helps Nadal bring the game to deuce. However, the Rod Laver Arena on the evening of February 17 was Tsitsipas. He pressed the second seed to defeat him, before going back to the semi-finals against Daniil Medvedev.

Thang Nguyen


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