Sixth seed Rafael Nadal defeated 14th seed Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 on Tuesday to book a place in the semifinals of the 2022 Australian Open.
Nadal appeared to be in complete control of the match after taking a two-sets-to-love lead. But the 22-year-old Canadian hit back to level the proceedings before the Spaniard closed out the contest in five sets after more than four hours on court.
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As a result, here are three things that stood out in the Spaniard’s quarter-final victory.
#1 Shapovalov’s serve was powerful but lacked consistency
The Canadian struck 20 aces, but his first-serve percentage stood at just 58% for the match. He posted first-serve percentages of 50 and 53, respectively, which contributed to his struggles in the first two sets.
Although that number increased in the final two sets, it was not enough for the Canadian to overcome the Spaniard.
In contrast, Nadal was much more accurate with his first serve, landing 68% of them.
#2 Nadal kept his cool in the face of Shapovalov’s aggression
As Shapovalov faced the 20-time Grand Slam champion, he did not try to curb his aggression. He tried to hit through Nadal with powerful groundstrokes off both wings. However, he paid the price for his gung-ho approach by committing a ton of unforced errors.
Despite hitting 53 winners to Nadal’s 41, Shapovalov also made 51 unforced errors to the Spaniard’s 28, with the majority coming on his forehand side.
Nadal, for his part, ensured he prolonged the rallies just enough to force the Canadian into making mistakes. The strategy paid off as the Spaniard won most of the longer rallies.
#3 Nadal’s experience trumped Shapovalov’s youthful exuberance
After losing the first two sets, Shapovalov made a great comeback to win the next two and force a decider. His lack of experience showed in the fifth set as he dropped his level and gave up his serve.
Nadal used his experience to his advantage, breaking Shapovalov in the second game of the final set and then saving two multiple breakpoint opportunities.
Although the Canadian tried hard to find a way back into the match, he simply couldn’t cut down on the unforced errors.