Djokovic ‘cleared out of the way’ for Nadal says Webster
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Rafael Nadal could be the next Roger Federer at the Australian Open, John McEnroe believes. The Spaniard booked his place in the semi-finals of the competition with a hard-fought victory over Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday morning. Now, he’s just two victories away from winning a record 21st Grand Slam.
Nadal headed into the match with Shapovalov having dropped just one set at the Australian Open so far.
But the Spaniard was forced to dig deep to emerge victorious, eventually winning 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3.
Nadal admitted after the game that he found the temperatures in Australia difficult, while he also had to call a trainer due to a stomach complaint.
In the end, however, the 35-year-old was simply too good.
History is nearing for Nadal who, if he wins his next two matches, will move out in front of Federer and Novak Djokovic on 21 Grand Slams.
And McEnroe thinks the former world No 1 is a ‘master’ at winning big matches, while expressing a belief he could emulate Federer’s triumph on these shores back in 2018.
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“He looks pretty good in my book,” said McEnroe.
“I think he came to Australia early because he got Covid, because he wanted to get some matches, he wanted to get used to the heat.
“I think this paid off for him in this particular match.
“This was a match where Shapovalov had for the taking, that’s why Rafa is so great because he was able to put the pressure on just as the right moments, just enough at the time he was able to get it done.
“And that’s what separates these guys.
“Shapovalov has got to understand he’s got to take it up another level mentally if he’s to get over the hump.
“But some players don’t win big until they’re maybe early to mid 20s so he’s still got time but he’s a bit of a wild stallion at key moments, he let’s it go.
“Whereas Rafa is like the master of getting the most from any situation he’s in.
“It’s amazing. He’s going to do something Roger did, Roger was gone for six months five years ago, didn’t play, was injured.
“He won I think three five setters and Rafa is in a similar situation.
“You don’t think for a moment he didn’t come here and think he could win this competition. I don’t believe that.”
Nadal conceded after the match that he was ‘completely destroyed’ following the dramatic win at the Rod Laver Arena.
“I don’t know, honestly I was completely destroyed!” he said.
“A very tough day, very warm, I didn’t practice for it.
“I was a little bit lucky at the beginning of the fifth. At the beginning of the match I was playing great, I know how difficult it is to play against a player like Denis.
“I had my chances at the beginning of the third, I didn’t get it and then started to feel a bit more tired and he pushed me. For me it is amazing to be in the semi-finals.
“I started to feel not very well in my stomach so I asked for something, they took the tension, checked everything was all right in my body and some tablets to try and improve my stomach – so I think I was lucky I was serving great in the fifth.
“I am not 21 anymore, after this match it is great to have two days off.
“I felt quite good physically in terms of movement but the conditions haven’t been that hot.
“For me it is everything to be able to play one more time in that semi-finals match.
“We can create history but the real truth is two months ago we didn’t know if we would be back on tour at all.
“So it is just a present of life I am here playing tennis again and enjoying it.”
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