Nadal dismisses Djokovic’s protest
Spanish great Rafael Nadal said he wouldn't blame quarantine or look for other excuses on Wednesday night after his Grand Slam record bid was torpedoed by an inspired Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open.
Nadal's hunt for a record 21st major title ended in five sets against the Greek fifth seed, who came back from two sets down to win 3-6 2-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 7-5 in four hours and five minutes in the quarter-finals.
The 34-year-old was playing his first tournament of the year after back tightness - following a stint in Australian quarantine - kept him out of the ATP Cup team competition.
It was a memorable tournament for the left-hander, who was given the finger by an angry fan in an earlier match.
But he refused to blame the unusual build-up to the coronavirus-disrupted Grand Slam for his surprise defeat.
"We can find excuses or reasons, or maybe this quarantine that we need to be more time in the room than usual," he said.
"But I'm not the guy that's going to find excuses on that or going to complain about what happened, no.
"Just accept. I never considered myself an unlucky person at all. Doesn't matter the injuries that I had. I think I am a very lucky person.
"The only thing that I can do is just keep going. I put myself in a position, even with the challenges that I faced, to be in the quarterfinals, two sets up, close to being in the semi-finals. So a chance lost? Yes. But life continues. I hope to keep having chances and I'm going to keep fighting for it."
NADAL REJECTS DJOKER'S COMPLAINTS
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev both hit out at quarantine after their quarter-final on Tuesday, blaming it for a rash of early-season injuries.
"What we are seeing is not normal. It's not something we are used to," Djokovic said.
"Top players are the ones that are fittest. It has been proven in the past that that's the case. Now you have Berrettini, even Rafa coming in with a back injury, myself, Sascha, as well, struggled, Dimitrov.
"I mean, obviously it has something to do with these kind of circumstances that we were in."
"Talking to a lot of players, majority of the players just don't want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments," he warned.
"So this is something that should be discussed, like as of now."
But Nadal dismissed talk of halting the tour, or playing it in a series of "bubbles" to avoid further stints in quarantine, as suggested by Djokovic.
"There are two options: stop the tour or keep going," he said. "It's tough for the players, of course … but on the other hand, if we stop the tour, why and how and when we will be able to come back? And a lot of jobs gonna suffer a lot."
Nadal added: "We need to think a little bit bigger … we need to find solutions and we need to adapt to this very tough times that we are facing."
It was just the second time Nadal had lost when two sets up in a Grand Slam, having previously fallen to Fabio Fognini in the third round of the 2015 US Open.
Nadal, 34, remains tied with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles, but Djokovic can pull within two if he wins his 18th major trophy this week.
Nadal was hoping to end a 12-year drought at the Australian Open, the only Slam he has not won multiple times.
TSITSIPAS: 'IT'S EVERYTHING I DREAMED OF'
Tsitsipas, the fifth seed, turned the match on its head after snatching the tie-break in the third set and clinched the memorable victory with a backhand down the line.
Known as occasionally a hot-headed player, the 22-year-old has made a conscious effort to take a calmer approach, which paid dividends when he was on the brink of elimination against a rampant Nadal.
"I wasn't thinking about a lot of things," said Tsitsipas, who hit 49 winners and 17 aces in his second win in eight meetings with Nadal.
"How would I describe myself? Nirvana. Just was there … playing, not thinking."
He added: "I woke up today and I felt really relaxed. I felt things would go my way.
"I was very serene during the match. Maybe the absence of a crowd kept me like this."
Tsitsipas said celebrating with his father Apostolos and his coaching team, among the few people at Rod Laver Arena during a statewide coronavirus lockdown, was a "special moment".
"The way I was able to come back, the way I did, and how I fought against Rafa, was something I've never felt before," he said.
"To be able to hug my team and share that moment of appreciation was epic. It's everything I ever dreamt of."
Tsitsipas will now attempt to reach a maiden Grand Slam final when he plays the in-form Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final.
"He's playing very well and is in good shape. I know he is going to give me a difficult time on the court," said Tsitsipas, who has a 1-5 record against the Russian.
"He's someone that I really need to be careful with and just take my chances and press."
"I don't feel completely exhausted. With experience I have realised how to preserve my energy," he added, after his second five-set match of the tournament.
Djokovic will play the other semi-final against Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
Originally published as Nadal dismisses Djokovic's protest