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Rafael Nadal loses bid for record 21st Grand Slam title with Australian Open loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas

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MELBOURNE, Australia — For the 225th time in his illustrious career, Rafael Nadal grabbed a two-set lead in a Grand Slam match. For only the second time, he blew that big edge and lost.

A couple of uncharacteristically sloppy overheads and a framed backhand in a third-set tiebreaker began Nadal’s undoing, and his bid for a men’s-record 21st major championship eventually ended in the Australian Open quarterfinals Wednesday with 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I have to go back home,” Nadal said, “and practice to be better.”

At his put-the-ball-where-he-wants-it best in the early going, Nadal went ahead rather easily, winning 27 consecutive points on his serve in one stretch and running his streak of consecutive sets won at major tournaments to 35, one shy of Roger Federer’s record for the professional era.

Nadal and Federer are currently tied at 20 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any other man in the history of a sport that dates to the late 1800s.

Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts after losing a point against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open.

But Tsitsipas never wavered and that surprisingly poor tiebreaker by Nadal — thinking too far ahead, perhaps? — helped hand over the third set and begin the epic comeback.

“I started very nervous, I won’t lie,” the fifth-seeded Tsitsipas said. “But I don’t know what happened after the third set. I just flied like a little bird. Everything was working for me. The emotions at the very end are indescribable.”

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