Rafael Nadal was stunned by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday. Nadal led Tsitsipas by two sets to love at one stage, looking all but guaranteed to book his place in the last four, but he missed several opportunities which allowed the Greek to storm back and win in five sets.
The third set went to a tiebreaker, where Nadal committed a slew of unforced errors to give Tsitsipas a new lease of life. The 22-year-old then brought out his best in the fourth and fifth sets, eventually wrapping up the decider 7-5.
In his post-match interview, Rafael Nadal was asked about the opportunities he missed in the third-set tiebreaker. The Spaniard admitted that he made some wayward errors that he shouldn't have made, but was quick to note that Tsitsipas was simply better in the crucial moments.
"A little bit of everything," Rafael Nadal said when asked about some of the opportunities he missed. "I missed a couple of balls in the tiebreaker that I shouldn’t miss if I want to win. Tsitispas played great from the third set. I missed an opportunity to be in the semis again, well done for him, he was better in the important moments."
Rafael Nadal made five unforced errors in the tiebreaker, which is half the amount of errors he accumulated in the first two sets combined. The Spaniard, however, focused more on Stefanos Tsitsipas' level than his own, insisting that the Greek was simply too good for him.
"In the 4th and 5th set he played at a very high level and I have made some mistakes in important moments," Nadal said. "I have to go to practice and improve. It was close, but it wasn’t enough."
I have had more injuries here than in the other places: Rafael Nadal on 'Australian Open curse'
Rafael Nadal struggled with a back injury at the Australian Open and was forced to alter his service motion and speed during the first week. At one point, the Spaniard had even suggested his back was not "under control".
However, Nadal admitted on Wednesday that he suffered no back issues during his quarterfinal match against Tsitsipas.
"Physically I was not fantastic, but not bad either. In the tiebreak I made a few mistakes that I shouldn't," Nadal noted.
The 20-time Major champion was later asked to give his thoughts on the notorious 'Australian Open curse' that some people believe he has been afflicted with. Over the last decade Rafael Nadal has been struck by some unfortunate problem or another in Melbourne, preventing him from adding to the sole title he has won Down Under.
The 34-year-old, however, dismissed any claims of a 'curse'.
"No, no, no," Nadal said. "Sometimes things go well, sometimes no. Unfortunately for me, I have had more injuries here than in the other places."
Nadal refused to give any excuses for the string of heartbreaks he has had in Melbourne, but he did bring up his 2014 Australian Open campaign - where he succumbed to a back injury in the final against Stan Wawrinka.
"I don’t like to say 'unlucky' or find excuses," Nadal said. "But I did wonder 'why'; for example, why what happened happened in the Australian Open 2014 against Wawrinka in the finals after the great tournament I've had."