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Nadal survives, Shapovalov wilts in roller-coaster Australian Open quarterfinal contest

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal put his fans through the wringer for one wild set against Adrian Mannarino on Sunday.

He put them through a full five rounds–or sets, to be exact–on Tuesday.

Nadal failed to finish off Denis Shapovalov in quick straight-set fashion during their quarterfinal contest at the Australian Open but recovered from a mid-match hiccup to survive 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3. What seemed to be a straightforward affair turned into a four-hour, eight-minute struggle after which the Spaniard set up a semifinal showdown against Matteo Berrettini.

With Shapovalov serving down two sets and at 3-3, 15-30 in the third, Nadal was on the brink of victory. The 2009 Aussie Open champion got a look at an easy forehand passing shot that would have given him double-break point, but he missed it wide and Shapovalov won four points in a row to hold.

It was right around that time when Nadal–whose fourth-round win over Mannarino included a 16-14, 28-minute tiebreaker–began suffering from an apparent stomach bug. The 35-year-old did not look the same for the remainder of the third set and throughout the fourth.

“I was completely destroyed after that,” he said afterward. “I was lucky that I was serving great in the fifth.”

There was nothing lucky about how Nadal served in the fifth, but he was fortuitous in a number of ways. Some pills he had taken during the fourth and again in between sets clearly began to kick in. Most importantly, Shapovalov’s game took a tumble at the worst time. The 22-year-old Canadian turned in a disastrous service game at 0-1, got broken, and never recovered. Thirteen of Shapovalov’s 51 unforced errors came in the decider, which is a big reason why he did not generate any break points in Nadal’s last three service games.

Both during and after the match, Shapovalov was not happy about the time Nadal was taking in between points and also in between the fourth and fifth sets.

“It’s like, where is the line? I respect everything that Rafa has done and I think he’s an unbelievable player, but there’s got to be some boundaries,” said the world No. 14, who called chair umpire Carlos Bernardes “corrupt” during the match. “It’s just so frustrating as a player. You feel like you’re not just playing against the player, you’re playing against the umpires, you’re playing against so much more.”

“I think I misspoke when I said he’s corrupt or whatever I said. It’s definitely emotional, but I do stand by my side. I think it’s unfair how much Rafa is getting away with. I’m completely ready to play and the clock is ticking, clicking towards zero, and I’m looking at the umpire and obviously I’m going to speak up and say something.

“I’ve been ready to play for a minute and a half and he tells me he’s not going to give him a code violation because I’m not ready to play. To me, it’s a big joke.”

What isn’t a joke is that Shapovalov let a huge opportunity slip away with his fifth-set demise.

For Nadal, it’s once again survive and advance.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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