Rafael Nadal was in difficulty on Tuesday against Denis Shapovalov in the Australian Open quarter-finals. But the Spaniard dug deep to advance after five gruelling sets in the Melbourne heat.

“I don’t know, [it] was a little bit of miracle. I was destroyed honestly, physically,” Nadal said. “But my serve worked well, and for me, every game that I was winning with my serve was a victory. That was my goal, just try to win games with my serve and expect for the chance on the return.”

In four hours and eight minutes, Nadal lost his serve just twice, and that helped him claw past Shapovalov inside Rod Laver Arena. Quietly, he has moved to within two matches of a record-breaking 21st major title. The Spaniard is just six sets from breaking a tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

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The lefty admitted that while it is “a real honour” to be part of the race and he wants to keep winning, he is not completely fixated on the record.

“I don’t believe that my happiness, my future happiness is going to depends on if I achieve one more Grand Slam than the others or if the others achieve more Grand Slams than me,” Nadal said. “No, I am super satisfied and feel [I am a] very lucky person in general for all the things that happened to me in this life.

“I have a way to approach life. You can’t be always frustrated if the other, if the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a better phone or a better thing. I’m not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes their career with more Grand Slams than me.” 

It took a massive effort for Nadal to get this far in the tournament in the first place. Since arriving in Australia, he has openly discussed the difficulties he has had with his foot, which kept him out for the rest of 2021 following last year’s Citi Open. On Tuesday, the heat did not make things easier.

“I started to feel bad honestly at the end of the second. It was very warm out there today and the conditions were hard,” Nadal said. “I think of course all these kinds of matches help me to be in better shape, but we can’t forget that I didn’t play much tennis for such a long time. So under these very hard conditions, it’s difficult for me.”

The legendary lefty admitted he was “very worried” entering the fifth set. Between the heat and his opponent, there were plenty of obstacles for him to overcome in order to get back on track.

“But more than worried I thought [it was] going to be super difficult to win that match,” Nadal said. “But here I am. Being in [the] semi-finals means a lot to me against have a victory against a great player after all the things that I went through, so it’s amazing news. I’m super happy.”

More good news for Nadal is that he is not only in the semi-finals, but full of confidence. Having won the Melbourne Summer Set to begin the season, he is now 8-0 in 2022.

“Of course after eight matches you feel a little bit more confident and the things are going a little bit more automatic again. I have been playing well. Of course after that I had the thing on court, the physical issue that I was not able to keep moving the proper way for the rest of the match,” Nadal said. “But when I was physically well, I think I was playing a little bit better than him.”

Nadal explained the importance of having two days off to physically recover before his clash against Italian Matteo Berrettini, who also needed five sets in his quarter-final against Gael Monfils.

“Matteo, he’s one of the best players of the world since a while already. He’s very solid. I need to play my 100 per cent and my highest level if I want to keep having chances to fight, to be competitive, and to try to be in the final,” Nadal said. “I am super happy today. For me, this victory is super important in these circumstances, and be able to win [and reach] the semi-finals of a Grand Slam after everything is a lot of positive energy for me.”

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