Melbourne: Ruthless Rafael Nadal brutally swatted aside a bright young star in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday, before setting his sights on the leading new kid on the block, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Spanish second seed continued his relentless progress by slaying giantkiller Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in just 107 minutes of power-packed, precision tennis.
And Nadal, 32, warned the 20-year-old Tsitsipas, who knocked out Roger Federer in the fourth round, to be ready as the Spaniard would be at his best in Thursday evening’s semi-final. The Greek sensation added another thrilling chapter to his odyssey on Tuesday, the 20-year-old felling Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5 4-6 6-4 7-6(2) to claim a maiden Grand Slam semi-final for the Mediterranean nation.
“For me is always the same: you are in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam, you can’t expect an easy opponent,” Nadal told reporters.
“Stefanos is one of the best players of the world. To have the chance to be in that final, I need to play my best, and that’s what I am looking for.”
Unseeded Tiafoe, 21, had shocked fifth seed Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov, seeded 20, but the 17-time Grand Slam champion proved too formidable for the popular American in his first major quarter-final.
The Spaniard has been in irresistible form in Australia in his first tournament since limping out of the US Open and having foot surgery.
“I feel lucky to be where I am after what I went through to be able to compete at this level,” he said.
“That’s why I get up in the morning and go to the gym and work hard.”
Nadal had never faced the world number 39 before but decided rather than feel his way into the match he would bludgeon Tiafoe from the start.
An immediate break of serve was the result and a controlled romp to the opening set in 31 minutes as he imposed his authority.
He repeated the lesson at the start of the second, continuing a game plan that seemed to be based on overpowering the speedy young pretender by keeping him pinned to the baseline.
Danielle Collins overcame a slow start to book a maiden slam semi-final spot when the unheralded American rallied from a set down to overcome Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-5 6-1.
The 25-year-old Collins had not won a match in her previous five Grand Slam appearances but has now made it to the last four in her first main draw showing at Melbourne Park.
“My first time playing on Rod Laver and I didn’t even practise here before so this was quite the experience, I absolutely love it,” Collins said in her court-side interview.
“All the Australian fans have really made me feel at home here.” In a first career meeting between the pair, Collins and Pavlyuchenkova were evenly matched in their ability to hit winners, but the American had greater control on the unforced errors that proved decisive.
A ruthless Petra Kvitova, meanwhile, trampled on the hopes of the host nation with an emphatic 6-1 6-4 defeat of Ashleigh Barty to reach her second Australian Open semi-final.
The double Wimbledon champion silenced home fans at a packed Rod Laver Arena, who had barely settled in their seats before the first set was over in a dizzying 27 minutes.