After fending off four set points and being unable to convert the first six of his own, Rafael Nadal finally clinched a 28-minute and 40-second tiebreaker to get himself on track to secure a spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 14th time.
After a 7-6 (14), 6-2, 6-2 fourth-round victory over fellow left-hander Adrian Mannarino on Sunday, Nadal is now potentially just three wins away from a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.
The 35-year-old Spaniard moved to equal-second with John Newcombe on the all-time list for most quarterfinals in Australia. Roger Federer tops that list with 15.
He shares the men’s record 20 major titles with Federer and Djokovic. But he’s the only one of the trio playing in this tournament.
Mannarino, who didn’t finish his third-round win until after 2 a.m. on Saturday and appeared to be hampered at times by an abdominal or upper leg injury, threw everything at Nadal in the opening set at Rod Laver Arena, where temperatures approached 33 Celsius.
‘I was a little bit lucky at the end’
“First set [was] very, very emotional,” Nadal said. “Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end. I had chances, he had a lot of chances too.”
“I’m very happy I survived that first set, without a doubt,” he added. “That crazy first set was so important.”
The first set lasted 85 minutes, including the ‘breaker, but after getting early breaks in the second and third sets the match was over in 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Next up for Nadal will be either No. 3 Alexander Zverev or No. 14 Denis Shapovalov of Canada, who were playing on Margaret Court Arena around the same time.
Krejcikova downs Azarenka
On the women’s side, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova has reached the Australian Open quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in their fourth round match on Rod Laver Arena.
The fourth-seeded Krejcikova needed only 85 minutes to beat the 2012 and 2013 champion and progress to her third quarterfinal in four Grand Slams events.
She will next play 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys, who had 6-3, 6-1 victory over eighth-seeded Paula Badosa.
Krejcikova broke Azarenka’s serve in the third game and again in the seventh to take control of the first set.
She broke again the opening game of the second set and then was rarely troubled in closing out as temperatures approached 34 Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit).
Keys beat Badosa 6-3, 6-1 in the first match of Day 7 on Rod Laver Arena.
Ousted Belgium player tests positive for COVID-19
Belgian tennis player Alison Van Uytvanck said on Sunday she had tested positive for COVID-19 after playing at the Australian Open.
“My exit test in Melbourne to go back to Belgium came back positive,” she said on social media. “I’m isolating and following all of the requirements.”
Van Uytvanck last played when she was ousted on the women’s double tournament on Thursday.
She also competed in the women’s singles, losing on the second round to Wang Qiang of China on Tuesday.