Resurgent Rafael Nadal savoured his return to the big time after reaching a first grand slam semi-final for nearly three years at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Ninth seed Nadal, 30, belied Milos Raonic’s status as the top-ranked player left in the men’s draw with a commanding 6-4, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 triumph over the Canadian.
The injury-hit former world No1 admits that failing to challenge at a major tournament since winning the last of his 14 grand slams at the 2014 French Open caused him to fear his glory days were gone.
“Even when I was winning a lot I have doubts so you can imagine I have more when I am not winning and have injuries,” said Nadal.
“The good thing is when you have doubts you feel ready to work more. I had a great career but had a lot of tough moments that make me enjoy even more the good moments like today.”
The Spaniard could yet meet old rival Roger Federer in the final. A ninth grand slam title decider between the pair would be a fitting end to a tournament in which the old guard has torn up the script.
First Nadal must navigate Grigor Dimitrov, however, after the Bulgarian 15th seed defeated 11th seed David Goffin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Federer faces 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka on Thursday morning.