Rafael Nadal, who saw his quest for a record 21st Grand Slam championship crown come to an end on Wednesday, was left to rue missed opportunities in his five-set loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I missed a couple of balls in the [third set] tie-break that I could not miss if I wanted to win,” said Nadal. “The whole issue is I missed an easy smash at the beginning of the third-set [tie-break], an easy forehand at 2/1 in the tie-break, and then another smash in that tie-break.
“I think Stefanos played great in the fourth and fifth sets. I tried my best in every single moment, with the right attitude… I think I stayed positive all the time during the match, fighting. And [it] was not enough. Sometimes it’s enough. Today, [it] was not enough.”
Nadal’s loss guarantees that Novak Djokovic will remain as World No. 1 through at least 8 March, when he will overtake Roger Federer to set a new record of 311 total weeks at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
For only the second time in his career at a major championship, Nadal let slip a two-sets-to-love lead. Fifth seed Tsitsipas fought back to win 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena to join Fabio Fognini, who was a 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victor over Nadal at the 2015 US Open, in a very exclusive club.
“I think in the third [set] he already started to play much better,” admitted Nadal. “Then, in the fourth and fifth [sets], I think he played [at] a very, very high level of tennis.”
The 34-year-old Nadal, who could not represent Spain at the ATP Cup in Melbourne due to stiffness in his back, did not attribute the injury to Tsitsipas’ comeback.
“I never considered myself [an] unlucky person at all,” said Nadal. “[It] doesn’t matter the injuries that I had. I think I am very lucky person. The only thing that I can do is just keep going. I put myself in a position [to be] two sets up in the quarter-finals, close to the semi-finals. Has a chance been lost? Yes, but life continues. I hope to keep having chances [and] I’m going to keep fighting for it.”
The World No. 2, who owns a 69-15 record at Melbourne Park, has fallen in the Australian Open quarter-finals in three of his past four visits to the tournament (2018, 2020-21).