Pumped-up Nadal into Melbourne quarters but Zverev sent packing
Rafael Nadal survived a marathon first-set tiebreak to seal his spot in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday and will face Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian stunned Alexander Zverev.
Later, in the women’s draw, giant-killer Amanda Anisimova tries to make world number one and hot favourite Ashleigh Barty her latest victim at Melbourne Park.
A pumped-up Nadal, who is chasing a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, was pushed all the way by Adrian Mannarino in the first set before breaking the Frenchman’s resolve in a 7-6 (16/14), 6-2, 6-2 victory in searing heat.
“First set was very emotional,” said the 35-year-old Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, who pumped his fists after emerging victorious an epic 28-minute tiebreak on a steamy day in Melbourne.
“That crazy first set was so important.”
The Spaniard, who dropped a set for the first time in the tournament before powering past Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the previous round, will now face Canadian 14th seed Shapovalov in the last eight.
Shapovalov left Olympic champion and third seed Zverev still searching for a first major title after beating him 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
“It’s always an honour to play someone like Rafa,” said the 22-year-old Shapovalov.
“Always fun, always going to be battle, it’s going to be tough.”
In action later is Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini against Spanish 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.
Flamboyant 17th seed Gael Monfils, unbeaten this year after winning a warm-up event in Adelaide, is yet to drop a set and comes up against Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic.
The ageless 35-year-old Frenchman Monfils is targeting a second quarter-final appearance at Melbourne Park and the first for six years.
– ‘Really amazing‘ –
In the women’s draw, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova blew away former two-time Melbourne champion Victoria Azarenka, who had a neck problem, to set up a last-eight clash with unseeded American Madison Keys.
Fourth seed Krejcikova of the Czech Republic powered through 6-2, 6-2 against the Belarusian, who won the title in 2012 and 2013.
But fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece was a surprise loser, going down 7-6 (7/0), 6-3 to another American, Jessica Pegula, who revealed earlier this week she has been relaxing by spending every night at the casino.
“It was really amazing today because she is a champion here and she likes this court, she’s very experienced on this court,” said Krejcikova of Azarenka.
Keys raced past Spain’s Paula Badosa, seeded eight, 6-3, 6-1.
“Absolutely amazing,” said Keys. “I served pretty well and I think I returned pretty well.”
Later, the 20-year-old Anisimova, fresh from knocking out defending champion Naomi Osaka, has Barty in her crosshairs in the night session on Rod Laver Arena. The winner plays Pegula.
Australia will be watching to see whether Barty can keep the Melbourne Park party going in search of a maiden home Slam triumph, to add to her Roland Garros and Wimbledon crowns.
Barty has only dropped eight games as she inches towards a first Australian Open crown.
The 60th-ranked American Anisimova also sprang an upset with a second-round victory over Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic and goes in buoyed by a famous come-from-behind win over Osaka.