Tennis

‘Rafael Nadal was unlucky,’ recalls former No. 1

Rafael Nadal claimed his second Australian Open crown this year, the first in 13 years. Twelve months ago, the Spaniard suffered a heavy defeat at Melbourne Park, falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas 3-6, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 in four hours and five minutes in the quarter-finals.

Nadal injured his back in Adelaide a few weeks earlier and didn’t know what to expect in Melbourne. Still, he defeated four opponents in straight sets to advance to the last eight, where he opened up a massive gap against Tsitsipas.

However, the Greek survived the third set tie break, gathered momentum and outclassed the Spaniard to record one of Rafa’s most brutal defeats in Majors. Nadal kept everything under control in the first two sets and had a chance to seal the deal in the third before making some loose errors in the tie break.

Stefanos was already playing well after set number two, gathering momentum in that third and never looking back on his service games. The pressure was on Rafa in sets four and five, and he couldn’t take it after losing the drive.

He broke once in each to propel the young Greek over the finish line and hit the starting gate. It was only the third loss for the great Spaniard after taking two sets to gain the lead, and the second in Majors!

Rafael Nadal lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets at Melbourne 2021.

Rafa lost a bit of a rhythm with his groundstrokes from the fourth set.

Simultaneously, Stefanos threw everything he had on his opponent, delivering one fine grab after another and completing the most notable victory of his career. Sharing his thoughts on the match, Mats Wilander believed that Nadal would be fine in a couple of weeks, knowing that he was playing at a high level and looking forward to the clay swing with positive vibes.

The Swede noted Nadal’s dismal luck in trying to seal the deal in straight sets, playing a few loose shots and losing ground to suffer a heavy defeat. “Rafa will probably be out for two or three weeks. He hasn’t been able to win the Australian Open after that single crown in 2009, and I think he’ll shrug it off and realize, ‘maybe I wasn’t physically strong enough to hold this raise to the same level.’

He was going for the big fish; that’s not him, and it didn’t work. Rafa will return to the practice court, hit some balls and realize that she is at the same level as last year at Roland Garros. He played very well against Tsitsipas, and it was bad luck that he couldn’t cross the finish line first,” said Mats Wilander.

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