Denis Shapovalov gave himself an uphill task of getting back from two sets down against Rafa and it probably proved his undoing. It would need to be flawless from there on in and he nearly did it but having won sets three and four one poor service game in the decider cost him. Don’t get me wrong the first couple of sets were decent from Nadal but I think Denis will be disappointed with them. I think this proves he is getting closer in the majors now though and it is fine margins. I have to be honest I don’t blame him and actually admire him for coming out after and saying that he thought Nadal gets preferential treatment from umpires “100%”. It sounds like sour grapes but I would compare this to football where the top teams are perceived to get better treatment off officials and I don’t think tennis is much different. Shapo mentioned that he thinks Nadal gets away with the 30-second rule between serves whilst playing where most other players have to adhere to it and he also had a moan about the length of time he took at the end of the set (when getting changed). The Canadian was heard saying “You guys are all corrupt” when Carlos Bernades choose not to give Nadal a time violation and it ended with the two players having a quick chat at the net a few points later. It is pretty courageous from Shapo and shows although he rightly respects Nadal that he isn’t shy of speaking his mind. Rafa obviously denies any wrongdoing and why wouldn’t he in his defence. The Spaniard was also suffering from some stomach issues so will be pleased to have clawed his way over the line. It was a nice handshake at the end and that is the bottom line.
Matteo Berrettini will be Rafa’s semi-final opponent after his match with Gael Monfils followed a similar pattern. The Italian came out playing very well in the first two sets and won both before the Frenchman pegged him back to take him to a decider. In the same way, Shapovalov handed the initiative back to Nadal, Monfils did the same by chucking in not one but two sloppy service games against the Italian and that was game over. Monfils has done this before where he doesn’t really get going until he is two sets down and against Berrettini it was always going to be a big ask to win three straight sets. The crowd were quite vocal again and when asked about them after Berrettini said “Some of them are not really tennis fans I think. It is what it is. You can’t control everybody. To be respectful is something you have to do anyway but it’s fine. I won. I’m happy.” This was just after a fan had shouted out some abuse at him. I like the way the players have stood up to the crowd this week after they feel they haven’t been respectful. It shows some guts. The semi-final prices are currently showing Rafa as an 8/15 (1.54) favourite and it should be a cracker. The only time they have played is at the US Open in 2019 with Rafa winning in straights.
Ash Barty’s quest for a first title in Melbourne is still very much up for grabs and she didn’t even play as well as she has been today against Jessica Pegula. The 6/2 6/0 scoreline probably doesn’t tell you that but she still had the American tangled up and mentally beat during this one. She described her performance as “Solid”. It is a case of five down two to go for her and the pressure will continue to mount. She certainly doesn’t seem phased by it yet but as I have already mentioned in a previous blog this can change in one match and it can often come from nowhere. On this basis, the semi-final could be very interesting against a totally different kind of opponent.
That brings me to Madison Keys who will play her first semi-final in Melbourne since 2015, where she lost a certain player that goes by the name of Serena Williams. On paper, she looked to be up against it when playing Barbora Krejcikova today but in reality, she saw her off very comfortably. The Czech said she had physical issues and the performance backed that up but she didn’t want to talk in any greater depth as she thought it was disrespectful to Keys. I would also say it is very rare for players to go two weeks at a slam without any issues, so you could say it is part and parcel of a major. Keys served very well again and won 77% behind her first serve and was clearly the better player on the day. I think the 1/5 (1.2) ‘sounds’ right but taking everything into consideration it looks a little short to me. You would expect Barty to win but there is a lot at stake here, she leads the head-to-head 2-1.
Al Davies (Andy Del Potro).