Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning the match against Frances Tiafoe of the US in Melbourne, Australia, January 22 2019. Picture: REUTERS/ALY SONG
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning the match against Frances Tiafoe of the US in Melbourne, Australia, January 22 2019. Picture: REUTERS/ALY SONG

Melbourne —Rafael Nadal kept the flag flying for the old guard at the Australian Open with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over American Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday for a place in the semifinals where he will meet another next generation player in Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Nadal’s match against Tiafoe, who turned 21 on Sunday, was billed as an intriguing clash of generations after Roger Federer’s loss to Tsitsipas, but the second seed was ruthless as he reached the last four without dropping a set.

Nadal broke Tiafoe’s first service game in each set and with a second break in the third set wrapped up victory in 1hr 40min.

“I felt having the break at the beginning of every set, that gave me a lot of confidence. Then I was serving well, playing solid,” Nadal told reporters.

Nadal was forced to retire hurt in the fifth set of the 2018 quarterfinal against eventual finalist Marin Cilic, eight years after pulling out midway through his last-eight clash against Andy Murray with a knee injury.

“It’s very emotional for me to be back in the semifinal in Melbourne,” Nadal said on court. “I had some troubles in this event all my career.

“To be back to the semifinal without playing for a while means everything to me.”

Doubts about his ability to withstand seven matches on hardcourts were reinforced when he retired in the US Open semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro in 2018. His season also ended early with ankle surgery and an abdominal injury.

Nadal is leaving no stone unturned in Melbourne to win another Major and has brought a remodelled serve aimed at generating more pace which once again worked effectively on Tuesday.

His serve was only threatened in the fourth game of the second set but the Spaniard, who is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era, and only the third man ever, to win each of the four Grand Slams twice, saved both breakpoints he faced.

Tiafoe was content with his performance and said it was an “unbelievable” experience on Rod Laver Arena. “I knew he was going to bring crazy intensity, I knew the ball was going to be jumping.

“I knew if he got hold of a forehand, it was going to be barbecued chicken. But point in, point out, I’ve never seen someone so locked in,” Tiafoe said.

For a place in the final, Nadal will meet 20-year-old Greek sensation Tsitsipas, who earlier on Tuesday became his country’s first player to reach the last four at a Major with a 7-5 4-6 6-4 7-6(2) triumph over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

After destroying Alex de Minaur, the highly regarded 19-year-old local, in straight sets in the third round and Tiafoe in the last eight, Tsitsipas will be the latest youngster to test Rafael Nadal Nadal.

Reuters