Rafael Nadal news: Starting preparations early in Australia the right call for world No 5, says McEnroe

Delight for Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal claimed victory over Denis Shapovalov to secure a place in the semi-finals at the Australian Open, and tennis great John McEnroe believes the Spaniard is reaping the rewards of his early preparations for the tournament.

The world No 5 had to battle a stomach problem and the heat during his 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 thrilling win over the Canadian.

Nadal has managed to take it to the semi-finals of the season opening Grand Slam despite it being his first major competition since he’s returned from injury and got over his Covid-19 infection from December which spurred him on to start training for the Australian Open earlier.

“Rafa looks pretty good in my book, I think he came to Australia early because he got Covid, because he wanted to get to matches, because he wanted to get used to the heat and I think that paid off for him in his particular match,” McEnroe explained from the Eurosport Cube.

“This was a match that Shapovalov had for the taking, but that’s why Rafa is so great because he was able to put the pressure on just at the right moments, just at the right time and he was able to get it done.

“And that’s what separates these guys.”

The 62-year-old tennis legend didn’t take anything away from Shapovalov’s performance, he even described it as “incredible”, but he confessed he thought Nadal had the edge over him, however McEnroe was no less amazed at the 13 time French Open champion’s display.

“Just when you think Rafa has got nothing left he pulls something out of his bag of tricks, he managed himself so well,” the former World No 1 said.

“Shapovalov was playing as well as I’ve seen him play, how he can pace himself and then get his energy up early in the fifth set is incredible, but let’s face it he swings through the fences, goes for broke, he got a little bit wild early in the fifth and that really cost him.

“Rafa was going for more serves, you could see how much it meant to him to pull this off, the guy is absolutely amazing that he can still do this at this level – Shapovalov wanted it so bad, he could taste it, he could feel it, it was there, but he choked early in the fifth.”

Nadal will play either Gael Monfils or Matteo Berrettini in his semi-final match, almost in touching distance of glory at the Australian Open.