Rafael Nadal could emulate his great rival, Roger Federer, by completing his 'amazing' comeback from injury at the Australian Open, according to John McEnroe.
Nadal was forced into five gruelling sets by Denis Shapovalov, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion ultimately showed the greater desire to outlast his doughty opponent and sealed his place in his 36th major semi-final in four hours and 10 minutes.
The Spanish star is now through to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park for the seventh time in his illustrious career after battling past the Canadian, 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3, despite being ranted at for time-wasting by his opponent in a fiery exchange which involved the umpire being accused of being "corrupt".
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Federer famously roared back from an extended injury hiatus to clinch the title in Melbourne in 2017, also taking the crown in 2018, and McEnroe believes that Nadal could be on course to pull off a similarly spectacular comeback of his own this year.
"Just when you think Rafa has got nothing left he pulls something out of his bag of tricks," McEnroe told Eurosport in the Cube.
"He managed himself so well. Obviously, the heat was getting to him, 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.
"Shapovalov 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, he was throwing in more double-faults, but it was a good play – he had to take chances on his serve.
"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.
"Rafa looks pretty good in my book. I think he came to Australia early as he got Covid because he wanted to get to the matches and he wanted to get used to the heat. I think that paid off for him in this particular match. 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 at just the right moments, just at the right time and he was able to get it done – and that’s what separates these guys.
"Shapovalov has got to understand that he has got to take it up another level mentally if he is going to get over the hump. But some players don’t win big until they are in their early-to-mid-20s, so he has still got time, but he is a bit of a wild stallion at key moments where he lets it go, whereas Rafa is the master at getting the most out of whatever situation he is in.
"It is amazing that he could do what Roger Federer did. Roger was gone for six months five years ago – he did not play, he was injured. Rafa said he did not think he could reach this far, he was not playing as well as the other players. I don’t believe that for a second."

'I was just trying to survive, I was destroyed physically' - Nadal after Shapovalov win

Fellow Eurosport expert Tim Henman added: "You can do all the practice you like, you can be in the gym, you can be on the track doing all of that preparation, but until you are out on the court and you have that nervous energy of the match you don’t really – even with his experience – you don’t know how your body is going to react.
"But I think, having played so many times in that environment, he was able to stay calm and get that fast start in the fifth set. You can still see how much it means to him, it means an awful amount to come through a big match like that."
Mats Wilander agreed: "I don’t think Rafa really knows how well prepared he is. He comes to Australia, wins the first tournament, he doesn’t really know how he is going to play best-of-five sets, doesn’t really know how he is going to feel physically, but the one thing he has – he knows that whatever is in his bag, he is going to use not just every tactical tool, but emotionally be invested in every single decision.
"With Rafa, it is such a strength, he is so humble, and he just can’t live with himself unless he has done the absolute best. I don’t know if there has ever been another player like that, I really don’t."

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