Australian Open: 'I was a little bit lucky' reflects Nadal after booking quarter-final spot

By Sports Desk January 23, 2022

Rafael Nadal reflected on being "a little bit lucky" to win a crucial first-set tie-break after he progressed to the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Nadal saw off Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (16-14) 6-2 6-2 on Sunday to seal his place in the last eight of the season's first grand slam for the 14th time.

The 20-time major winner, however, needed to overcome a stern challenge in the first set, winning a 30-minute tie-break.

Indeed, Nadal had to claw back four set points in the tie-break, before an early break in the second paved the way for a much simpler time from then on in against an opponent who had played late into the night in the previous round.

"The first set had been very, very emotional," Nadal said. "Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end.

"Everybody knows how mentally [tough] this game is.

"It was a tough one and after that crazy first set, I think it was so important the break at the beginning of the second set.

"His ball was very difficult to control, very flat, very fast. I'm very happy that I survived that first set, without a doubt."

Nadal has only won the Australian Open once before, back in 2009, but his quest to land a record 21st grand slam title is going well so far.

"In this tournament I think I have been in a very good position to fight for it a lot of times in my career," Nadal added.

"I've always enjoyed playing in it a lot of times in my career. It's true that I was a little bit unlucky with injuries here, and sometimes I was unlucky because my opponents were a little bit better than me!

"But I've always enjoyed it and I'm very happy to be back in a quarter-final, it means a lot to me."

The Spaniard's hopes received another boost on Sunday, when world number three Alexander Zverev was knocked out by Canada's Denis Shapovalov, who will be Nadal's quarter-final opponent.

It will mark the fifth contest between 22-year-old Shapovalov and Nadal, with the latter having won three of their previous encounters.

"Shapovalov is a player with amazing potential," Nadal said.

"Everybody knows that when he's playing well, it's very difficult to stop him with [his] big serve, amazing forehand, and he's very quick."

Related items

  • Juvan's aggression pays off with stunning win over Pliskova Juvan's aggression pays off with stunning win over Pliskova

    Aggression was the key for Kaja Juvan as she claimed the second top-10 win of her career, stunning Karolina Pliskova to reach her first WTA Tour final at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

    World number 81 Juvan knocked off world number eight Pliskova 6-2 7-5 in just one hour and 26 minutes.

    Speaking afterwards, the 21-year-old said: "This whole year, I feel like I've been so close to beating these players.

    "I was like, 'OK, let's go for it, let's be aggressive, I can do it, I'm always so close.' 

    "We prepared well, and I think I stuck to being aggressive and trying to make the points, not just waiting for her, and that worked at the end.

    "I felt like I was really fast, and I felt really strong, so I wasn't too worried if it's going to go to the third set, if it's going to be a long match. I relaxed and tried to stick to my plan, because I thought at the end it's going to be worth it, no matter what happens."

    Juvan will face three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber in the final.

    Kerber won the first set of her semi-final against Oceane Dodin on a tie-break and broke in the opening game of the second before her opponent retired.

    At the Grand Prix Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat, Martina Trevisan beat fellow Italian Lucia Bronzetti in straight sets to book a final with Claire Liu, who won without hitting a ball as fifth seed Anna Bondar withdrew because of a shoulder injury.

  • Ruud en route to another Geneva title, Norrie nears Lyon redemption Ruud en route to another Geneva title, Norrie nears Lyon redemption

    Casper Ruud is one match away from successfully retaining his Geneva Open title, while Cameron Norrie has a shot at redemption in Lyon. 

    World number nine Ruud was a 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 winner against Reilly Opelka on Friday, putting him on the brink of a second ATP Tour crown of the season and a sixth in his past seven ATP 250 events on clay. 

    The Norwegian made the semi-finals at the Internazionali d'Italia last week and maintained his momentum ahead of the French Open. 

    He converted the match's only breakpoint in the penultimate game and sealed the deal in the next, dropping just five of 46 points behind his first serve throughout.

    Ruud will take on Joao Sousa – who was the runner-up to Thomaz Bellucci in Geneva seven years ago – in the final after the Portuguese defeated Richard Gasquet 6-2 6-2. 

    Norrie will also be hopeful of making up for a past final defeat after winning his last-four encounter with Holger Rune at the Lyon Open. 

    The Briton was a set and a break up before Rune recovered to force a decider, which Norrie took for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 triumph in a little over two hours.

    Norrie was beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year's final but it is Alex Molcan who stands between him and the trophy this time around. 

    Molcan, who is yet to win a Tour-level title, claimed an impressive victory 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 win over Alex de Minaur. 

  • Nadal believes in French Open prospects despite fitness struggles Nadal believes in French Open prospects despite fitness struggles

    Rafael Nadal believes he can win a 14th French Open title despite other players arriving at Roland Garros in better condition, as he labelled the venue the "most important" place in his tennis career.

    Nadal won a record 21st grand slam title when he recovered from two-sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling Australian Open final in January, and has won 13 of the last 17 editions of the year's second slam.

    However, Nadal admitted he was "living with an injury" after falling to a third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov at the Internazionali d'Italia earlier this month, and will need to overcome a tough draw to build on his fine record in Paris, with Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz both on his side of the bracket.

    Ahead of his first-round clash with Australia's Jordan Thompson, Nadal insisted that while he was not the favourite to triumph at Roland Garros, he hoped to replicate his performance at the year's opening grand slam in order to give himself a chance.

    "I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am, and I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport," Nadal said.

    "And here I am in Roland Garros, another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.

    "Today, it looks difficult and there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, that is true today. But you never know what can happen in the next couple of days.

    "The same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance, and here is no different. Things can change quick, and the only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens."

     

    Pressed on the effects of the foot injury which troubled him in Rome, Nadal said he is feeling better, but maintained it was a case of managing, rather than curing, the pain.

    "What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices," he added. "I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better.

    "The pain is there always. It's not going to disappear now. It's about if the pain is high and strong enough to allow me to play with real chances [of winning] or not.

    "But in my case, is something that I live every day, so it's nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. 

    "I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. And if I didn't believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here."

    Meanwhile, the stars appear to have aligned for Nadal, with his beloved Real Madrid facing Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 just a short journey across Paris at the Stade de France.

    Nadal, a known supporter of Los Blancos who requested not to play at the same time as their semi-final win over Manchester City while competing at the Madrid Open earlier this month, revealed he has already made plans to attend the conveniently located contest. 

    "Well, I am here to play Roland Garros more than anything else. But of course, I have my tickets already," he smiled.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.