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Nadal falls at Australian Open as new generation prevails
Melbourne/Xinhua: It was a case of the new conquering the old at the Australian Open men's quarterfinals on Wednesday, with Dominic Thiem besting legend, Rafael Nadal, and 22-year-old, Alexander Zverev toppling former title holder, Stanislas Wawrinka.
It took Thiem over four hours to finish Nadal, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), while Germany's Zverev slowly eroded Wawrinka for a final score of, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
At 26-years-old, Thiem clocked his first ever win against Nadal at a Grand Slam, to reach his first ever semifinal -- playing an exceptional game, but explaining that it didn't hurt to have luck on his side as well.
"It's necessary because he's one of the greatest of all time, biggest legends this sport has ever had, so you need some luck to beat him," Thiem said in a post-match interview.
Serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, it appeared as if the younger player would choke under the pressure, dropping two crucial points on a double fault and then an unforced error, forcing a third tiebreak.
"When it came to 5-4, it was a special situation for me serving for the match against Rafa for my first semifinal here at the Australian Open," Thiem explained.
"Such a really mentally tough situation. I couldn't handle it, but turned it around again in the tiebreaker."
Nadal conceded that on the night he was out-played by Thiem and lamented missing the opportunity to reach yet another Grand Slam semifinal.
"That's how it works sometimes, things are not going the way you would like," Nadal said.
"Well done for him, I honestly didn't play a bad match. It was difficult to play against him."
Earlier in the day, Zverev was also chasing his first ever Grand Slam semifinal against the 34-year-old Wawrinka, who was battling for a return to the top after multiple knee surgeries in 2017 disrupted his career.
As the match slipped through Wawrinka's fingers, the crowd at Rod Laver Arena -- where he won the title in 2014 -- showed their support by cheering him through the difficult final set.
"The crowd was great. It's always special to play on this court. I love to come back here every year," Wawrinka told Xinhua after the match.
"I think after one set and a half I was going a bit down physically. Also lack of energy. But I was playing well, was serving big. I think I could have made better the second and the third set."
Meanwhile in the women's draw, Romanian World No 3, Simona Halep set up a semifinal clash with two-time Grand Slam winner, Garbine Muguruza.
Spain's Muguruza downed Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3, while Halep comfortably dispatched Estonian Anett Kontaveit, 6-1, 6-1.
Both women are hot contenders to take the tournament -- each with a win at Wimbledon and Roland-Garros to their names -- but only one will face either Ash Barty or Sofia Kenin on the final stage.
So far Halep has had an immaculate tournament and is yet to lose a single set, while Muguruza appears in the midst of a return to form after being interrupted by injuries.
For the men, the final of this year's Australian Open is confirmed to be a battle between either one of the legends, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, and a younger challenger, Zverev or Thiem.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons