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MELBOURNE, Australia, Feb 17, (AP): Rafael Nadal entered his Australian Open quarterfinal with a 223-1 record when grabbing the first two sets of a Grand Slam match. Thanks to his own mistakes – and some spirited play by Stefanos Tsitsipas – that mark is now 223-2.
A couple of uncharacteristically sloppy overheads and a framed backhand in a third-set tiebreaker began Nadal’s undoing, and his bid here for a men’s-record 21st major championship eventually ended Wednesday with 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 loss to the younger, sharper Tsitsipas.
At his put-the-ball-where-he-wantsit best in the early going, 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 Roger Federer’s record for the professional era. Nadal and Federer are currently tied at 20 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any other man in the history of a sport that dates to the late 1800s.
But Tsitsipas never wavered and that surprisingly poor tiebreaker by Nadal – thinking too far ahead, perhaps? — helped hand over the third set and begin the epic comeback. So now, instead of Nadal attempting to surpass Federer, it will be Tsitsipas – a 22-year-old from Greece with a fl ashy game – who will meet 2019 U.S.
Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals Friday. Neither Tsitsipas nor Medvedev has won a Grand Slam tournament. In the other men’s semifinal, 17-time major champion and No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic will face 114th-ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who is making his Grand Slam debut. The No. 4-seeded Daniil Medvedev moved into the third Grand Slam semifinal of his career and pushed his current winning streak to 19 matches by beating good pal Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 .
Medvedev said he had a hard time moving his left leg on the last three points while serving out the victory, and he could tell Rublev was cramping, too. A couple of times during a crucial portion of the second set, Rublev went over to a courtside box meant to hold the players’ towels and plopped himself down in the shade for a breather. Top-ranked Ash Barty built a big lead in the Australian Open quarterfi- nals before her opponent took a medical timeout and left the court. More than an hour later, it was Barty heading abruptly for the exit, upset 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday by 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.
Muchova earned her first semifinal berth at a Grand Slam tournament and ended Barty’s bid to become the first Australian woman to win the title at home since Chris O’Neil in 1978. Muchova’s opponent will be 22ndseeded Jennifer Brady, who beat fellow American and good friend Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Brady reached her second Grand Slam semifinal, following a run that far at the U.S. Open in September.
She struggled at times and gave her racket an angry toss midway through the second set. But the unseeded Pegula, who advanced beyond the third round at a major for the first time, appeared to tire down the stretch. Muchova played poorly at the start of her second major quarterfinal, and Barty raced to a 5-0 lead while losing only six points. After nine games, Muchova had one winner and 18 unforced errors. Early in the second set, she took a medical timeout that lasted nearly 10 minutes, which players are allowed to do if it’s determined they’re having a problem that goes beyond cramps. Sunny weather, with the temperature in the mid-80s (30 degrees Celsius), was a factor, Muchova said. Comebacks have been a staple in the tournament for Muchova, who rallied in earlier matche
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