Grand Slam record not top of mind for Nadal
Spanish player says he is focused on enjoying his tennis at the Australian Open
Melbourne — Rafa Nadal said there would be no regrets if he failed to claim another Grand Slam title after moving within two wins of a record 21st at the Australian Open.
The Spanish great survived a five-set scare against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday to reach his seventh semifinals at Melbourne Park. Nadal won 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3.
With Novak Djokovic deported before the tournament and Roger Federer recovering from knee surgery, Nadal has a chance to grab the record outright but he said it would not matter to him if he missed out.
“I don’t hope [for] anything. I just keep going,” he told reporters. “In terms of what can happen in the future, honestly I really don’t care that much.
“I’m not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes the career with more Grand Slams than me, no? I mean, let’s enjoy the situation that we did, every one of us, we did very special things in our sport.”
From being worried his career was in jeopardy a couple of months ago as he struggled to recover from a foot problem, Nadal will contest his 36th Grand Slam semifinal on Friday.
Having the extra day’s break will be a huge blessing for the 35-year-old after his four-hour slog in the heat against 14th seed Shapovalov. With 22-year-old Shapovalov roaring back from two sets down to take the match into a fifth, Nadal said it was a “little bit of a miracle” that he managed to outlast the Canadian.
“I was destroyed, honestly, physically,” said Nadal, who took a medical timeout off court after Shapovalov took the fourth set.
“But my serve worked well, and for me, every game that I was winning with my serve was a victory.
“Of course in the beginning of the fifth set ... I was very worried. But more than [that], I thought [it was] going to be super difficult to win that match. But here I am ... it’s amazing news, no?”
World No 1 Ash Barty is within two victories of achieving a crowning moment in her career after another dominant display. The 25-year-old reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the second time in three years after blitzing American Jessica Pegula 6-2 6-0 in just more than an hour.
After fulfilling a childhood dream by winning Wimbledon in 2021, Barty will now play another American in Madison Keys on Thursday for a spot in the final. Aiming to become the first local since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to win the Australian Open, she has yet to drop a set and is unbeaten in all tournaments in 2022.
The former French Open champion reeled off the last nine games against Pegula and said she was delighted with her form.
“That was solid tonight. I had a lot of fun out here. I was able to serve well and find a lot of forehands in the centre of the court and I was happy to take the game on,” she said.
The Australian believes she is a superior player now to when she was beaten by ultimate champion Sofia Kenin in a semifinal in Melbourne in 2020.
“I have grown as a person. I have grown as a player. I feel like I am a more complete player,” she said. “I have a couple more years of experience under my belt in handling different experiences and problem solving out on the court.
“I think it is a credit to my team. They’ve done so much work with me behind the scenes to make the best version of myself. I’m loving playing out here.”
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