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Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Denis Shapovalov to reach semi-finals in Melbourne

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Rafael Nadal lost from two sets up against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the same stage last year and it appeared the same may well happen when Denis Shapovalov forced a decider on Rod Laver Arena, but the Spaniard made his experience count to reach the Australian Open semi-finals

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Rafael Nadal overcame an abdominal injury and Denis Shapovalov to win in five sets as he reached his 36th Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The Spaniard, who is gunning for a record 21st Grand Slam title, appeared to be cruising with a two-set lead before the Canadian mounted a fightback.

But Nadal, who had called the trainer for an abdominal issue during the fourth set, made his experience count to move ahead early in the fifth and hold on for a 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 victory.

A relieved Nadal said: “I was completely destroyed. Very tough day, very warm. I didn’t practise for it.

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“I was a little bit lucky at the beginning of the fifth. At the beginning of the match, I was playing great but I know how difficult it is to play against a player like Denis.

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“For me, it’s amazing to be in the semi-finals.”

The 35-year-old has two days off to try to recover physically before his semi-final against either Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils.

“I started to feel not very well in my stomach,” said the sixth seed. “I think I was lucky that I was serving great in the fifth. It was a great test and I really believe I’m going to be ready for that semi-final.”

Shapovalov was unable to find his best form in the opening set, though, and then showed his frustration by getting into a row with umpire Carlos Bernardes over the time Nadal was taking between points.

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It did not distract Nadal, who moved into a two-set lead, but Shapovalov began to turn the tide in the third set and clinched it with a backhand winner after his opponent was given a time violation.

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Nadal began to look weary and troubled in the fourth set, leaving the court for six and a half minutes at the end of it for a medical examination and a toilet break.

Two double faults – he served 11 during the match – put him in trouble in the opening game of the decider but Shapovalov could not take advantage and then dropped serve himself to give Nadal a lifeline.

The Spaniard seized it, finding more conviction in his shots again and exploiting costly errors from his opponent, who will feel he had the match in his grasp.

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