Rafael Nadal produced an impressive performance to see off Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4 6-2 and advance to the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the fifth time.
The emphatic scoreline means that the Spaniard, 32, is still yet to drop a set in the event this year. And it sets him up perfectly to push on and try and claim his second title in Melbourne.
It was a disappointing end to the American’s run. However, he can be justifiably proud of his efforts, especially during his wins over Kevin Anderson and Gregor Dimitrov, and it was clear to see today that his previous matches had taken a lot out of him.
Nadal raced through his opening service game to win it to love. He then immediately attacked Tiafoe’s serve and gained an immediate break.
That was all the Spaniard needed. He dominated on serve throughout the set and won 20 of the 23 points behind it, which enabled him to wrap it up 6-3 in just 31 minutes.
Tiafoe fights hard in the second set
The American made the worst possible start to the second set. He played a poor game on serve and lost it to love.
To his credit, Tiafoe responded well and fought for everything in the next few games. He earned his first break point of the match in game four after he won a 20-shot rally. However, he sent his next return just long.
The American then got another chance immediately when Nadal pulled a forehand wide. But again Tiafoe was unable to take advantage as he hit a backhand long.
Those turned out to be Tiafoe’s only opportunities in the set, as the World No.2 eventually held after three more deuces and went on to take it 6-4 without facing any more alarms on his serve.
Nadal ends Tiafoe’s challenge with early break
When Nadal broke the American in the opening of the third set, as he had done in the first two sets, the match already seemed as good as over.
Tiafoe hung in for a few more games to keep it to one break. However, his resistance ended when he made some tired errors and dropped his serve in game seven.
Fittingly, Nadal closed out the match with another commanding game on serve, which included a trademark forehand winner down the line.
“For me it’s very emotional to be back in the semi-finals here in Melbourne,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “I’ve had some dramas at this event during my career so to be back in the semi-final after a while means everything to me.”
The Spaniard continued, “I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things that have happened. To keep competing at this level is why I wake up every morning to go on court or go to the gym with the goal to be a better player.”
Denis Shapovalov beat Serbian Next Gen Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2 6-3 after 1 hour and 16 minutes in Winston Salem winning two consecutive matches for the first time since he reached the Miami Open semifinal last March.
Shapovalov won 80 % of his service points and fended off four of the six break points he faced.
The Canadian Next Gen player earned six break points in the second game of the first set, but Kecmanovic saved them. Shapovalov earned the break in the fourth game at 15 to build up a 3-1 lead.
Shapovalov went up a double break in the next game after a forehand error from Kecmanovic. The Canadian player wrapped up wrapped up the first set 6-2 with two winners and two double faults from Kecmanovic after 37 minutes.
Shapovalov went up a 3-0 lead with a break, but he wasted three break points in the fourth game. Kecmanovic broke back to draw level to 3-3 and earned two break points in the seventh game, but Shapovalov saved them with two winners. The North American star broke serve in the next game to open up a 5-3 lead. Shapovalov hit four winners in the ninth game to close out the match.
Shapovalov is currently working with Mikhail Youzhny, who returned in St. Petersburg last September and is sitting in his coaching box in Winston Salem.
“Miomir is a very tough opponent. I have played him a lot in the past. We have had some crazy battles. I am really happy with the way I am playing”,said Shapovalov.
Shapovalov set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who battled past Sam Querrey 7-4 (7-4) 7-6 (12-10). In the tie-break of the second set Rublev saved three set points and Querrey fended off two match points. Rublev hit a forehand winner at 10-11 on Querrey’s serve to seal the win after 1 hour and 54 minutes. Rublev took a re-match against Querrey, who beat the young Russian player at Wimbledon in straight sets.
“It’s a special win for me. He just destroyed me, and now we had a great fight, and we were so close and I was a little more lucky”, said Rublev.
Frances Tiafoe advanced to his fourth quarter final and his first since May when Filip Krajinovic had to withdraw from the match after losing the first set 6-2. Tiafoe went up a double break to race out to a 5-0 lead.
Hubert Hurkacz got three breaks to build up a 6-3 3-1 lead, when Feliciano Lopez was forced to retire from the match after 55 minutes.
Pablo Carreno Busta cruised past Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 6-0 after 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach his fourth quarter final of the season. Sonego got an early break to open up a 4-1 lead in the first set. Carreno Busta broke back in the sixth game before converting his sixth set point in the tie-break. The Spaniard broke three times to cruise to a bagel win in the second set after 25 minutes.
Benoit Paire came back from losing the first set to beat French Next Gen player Ugo Humbert 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3. Paire broke serve, when Humbert was serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set. Paire went up a double break to a 4-1 lead. Humbert converted his third break-back point in the eighth point, but Paire broke for the third time to seal the win.
John Millman cruised past Robin Haase 6-3 6-4 setting up a quarter final match against Steve Johnson, who beat Casper Ruud 6-2 7-6 (7-5).
Andy Murray To Play Rafa Nadal Open
The former world No.1 has announced where he will play next as his comeback from injury continues.
Three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray is returning back to the Challenger tour for the first time since the year he turned professional back in 2005.
The Brit is set to take to the court in Manacor next week to play in a hard court tournament named after his rival Rafael Nadal. Murray is currently in the process of stepping up his comeback from a second hip operation earlier this year. The Rafa Nadal Open will be only his third singles tournament since January. Murray has previously lost in the first rounds at Cincinnati and Winston-Salem to Richard Gasquet and Tennys Sandgren.
Murray, who is currently ranked 329th in the world, had previously hinted that he may return back to the lower levels of competition in order to help regain his form. It will be the first time he has played a Challenger tournament since the 2005 Mons Open.
“I’m quite aware of sort of where I’m at just now and what my level is. It’s competitive at this level but it needs to be better,” Murray told atptour.com last week.
“Maybe I need to play a level down to get some matches and build my game up a little bit before I start playing on the Tour again.”
The 32-year-old had declined a wild card invitation to play at next week’s US Open due to concerns that he wouldn’t be fit enough to contest best-of-five set matches. He reached the second round of the tournament last year before losing to Fernando Vertdasco.
Murray’s return to the Challenger Tour is expected to be short lived. He has already confirmed his intention to play a duo of ATP Tournaments in Zhuhai and Shanghai. On Wednesday he added the European Open in Antwerp to his schedule, where a maximum of 250 ranking points will be on offer.
“With Andy Murray on our tournament poster, we are now reaching absolute world class and taking the European Open to an unprecedented level in Belgium.” Said tournament director Dick Norman.
Since his comeback in June, Murray has won one title on the ATP Tour. Doing so alongside Feliciano Lopez in the men’s doubles at The Fever-tree Championships.
Andrey Rublev followed up his win over Roger Federer in Cincinnati with a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-1 win over Albert Ramos Vinolas in Winston Salem.
The Russian 21-year-old player did not face a break point in the first set, but he lost the tie-break 7-5. Rublev was leading 5-3 in the tie-break, but Ramos Vinolas fought back by winning four consecutive points to win the first set.
Rublev earned two breaks in each set and dropped 11 points in his service games to win the second and third sets 6-3 6-1.
Canadian Next Gen player Denis Shapovalov overcame a fight-back from Tennys Sandgren to take a 6-2 6-4 lead. Shapovalov broke serve in the sixth game to open up a 4-2 lead and sealed the first set with a double break with a backhand winner on his second set point. Shapovalov broke serve at love to build up a 3-0 lead. Sandgren broke straight back in the fifth game at love to claw his way back to 2-3 and took a second break at love to take a 4-3 lead. Shapovalov came back by breaking serve in the eighth and tenth games to clinch the win in two sets. Shapovalov, who has clinched just five of his eleven matches since Miami last March, has brought on Mikhail Youzhny as his coach on a trial basis. The now retired 37-year-old Russian player is in Shapovalov’s coaching box.
“It was definitely a great win. We have played a few times in the past and I normally play well against him, so I was just trying to be aggressive and take time away from him. I am feeling fresh and ready for tough situations like the second set today, so I am looking forward to my next match”, said Shapovalov.
Top seed Benoit Paire reached the third round after beating India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3 7-5 in 69 minutes. The French player broke three times and fended off four of the five break points he faced. Gunneswaran got the break back in the seventh game. Paire got another break to open up a 5-3 lead and saved a break point to seal the opening set 6-3 at love in the ninth game.
Both players held serve in the first ten games of the second set. Paire won 12 of the last 16 points and closed out the second set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game to reach the round of 16.
Filip Krajnovic came back from one set down to beat Tomas Berdych 3-6 7-5 6-1. The Serbian player went down a break to trail 4-5 in the second set, but he came back by breaking serve in the 10th game, when Berdych was serving for the match. Krajnovic broke serve in the 12th game to win the second set 7-5. Krajinovic broke twice in a row in the fifth and seventh games to cruise to a 6-1 win in the third set.
Feliciano Lopez edged Pablo Andujar 6-4 1-6 7-5 in just over two hours. Lopez dropped just three points and got the first break in the third game to win the first set 6-4. Andujar broke twice in a row to win the second set 6-1 forcing the match to the third set. Both players traded breaks in the second and third games. Lopez sealed the win with a break in the 12th game.
Hubert Hurkacz came back from one set down to beat Duckhee Lee 4-6 6-0 6-3. Lee became the first deaf player to win an ATP Tour match.
Sam Querrey toppled beat Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 7-5 after 1 hour and 29 minutes. Baena converted the only break point but Querrey converted three of his ten break points. Querrey reeled off the final eight points from 5-5 with a break at love to seal the second set 7-5.
John Millman came back from one set down to beat Marco Cecchinato 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3. Cecchinato saved the first break point of the match in the 12th game to set up a tie-break. Millman went up a mini-break, but Cecchinato broke straight back. Cecchinato got another break earning a set point and sealed the tie-break 7-5. Millman did not convert two break points in the fifth game, but he broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and held his next service games to win the second set 6-4. Both players held their serve until 3-3 before Millman got the decisive break in the seventh game. The Australian player sealed the win with a double break in the ninth game.
Lorenzo Sonego beat Damir Dzumhur 6-1 6-4 setting up a match against Pablo Carreno Busta. Sonego converted his fourth break point chance at deuce in the second game and sealed the first set with a double break. Dzumhur led 4-3 in the second set, but Sonego reeled off the final 12 points and broke serve at love in the ninth game to seal the second set 6-4.
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