Chasing a landmark of grand slam titles can often be tricky. If Serena Williams found it out the hard way in her pursuit of Margaret Court’s 24 titles over the last couple of years, it was Rafael Nadal’s turn to slip on the hardcourts of Australian Open on Wednesday.
The former world No.1, who is on par with his great rival and friend Roger Federer’s all-time high 20 crowns, will have to wait for another shot at it at his favourite Roland Garros after his shocking 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 quarter final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The odds against Nadal blowing a two-set lead was huge as for the 225th time in his illustrious career, the Spaniard grabbed a two-set lead in a Grand Slam match. And for only the second time, he blew that big edge and lost.
‘‘I have to go back home,’’ Nadal said, ‘‘and practice to be better.’’
I have to go back home, and practise to be better
Nadal went ahead rather easily, winning 27 consecutive points on his serve in one stretch and running his streak of consecutive sets won at major tournaments to 35, one shy of Federer’s record for the professional era.
But Tsitsipas never wavered and that surprisingly poor tiebreaker by Nadal helped hand over the third set and begin the epic comeback.
``I started very nervous, I won’t lie,’’ the fifth-seeded Tsitsipas said. ``But I don’t know what happened after the third set. I just flied like a little bird. Everything was working for me. The emotions at the very end are indescribable.’’
As Tsitsipas played, in Nadal’s estimation, a ‘‘very very high level of tennis’’ over the last two sets, the 34-year-old Spaniard’s play dipped considerably.
Nadal made a total of only 10 unforced errors in the first two sets combined, then had 11 in the third, 14 in the fourth and seven in the fifth.
In an unlikely semi-final match-up, only world No.1 Novak Djokovic stands as a representative of the Big Three against the new generation. The Serbian faces 114th-ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who is making his Grand Slam debut while the Greek faces 2019 US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals on Friday.
‘‘I’m speechless. I have no words to describe what just happened on the court,’’ Tsitsipas said shortly after the match ended. ‘‘It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to fight at such a level and just be able to give it my all out on the court.’’