23rd January, 2022
Rafael Nadal survived the longest tie-break of his career to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.
But third seed Alexander Zverev was taken out after he failed to serve out the second set in a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 defeat.
Nadal would have expected to have to get past the third seed to reach the last four but Zverev’s underachievement at the grand slams went on as he was beaten in straight sets by Denis Shapovalov.
Meanwhile, Nadal was up against veteran Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, and the match was all-but decided in an epic first-set tie-break lasting nearly half an hour.
Mannarino had four set points before Nadal finally took it 16-14 on his seventh chance thanks to a net cord and wild volley from his opponent, and went on to claim a 7-6 (16-14), 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Nadal said: “The first set has been very, very emotional, anything could happen there.
“I was a little bit lucky at the end. Everybody knows how mental is this game. After that crazy first set was so important that break at the start of the second. I’m very happy that I survived that first set without a doubt.”
It is starting to look like Nadal could be the big beneficiary of Novak Djokovic’s removal from the tournament but he will be wary of Shapovalov, who is through to his first quarter-final in Melbourne.
They have met four times before, with Shapovalov pulling off a stunning upset on home soil in Canada to announce his talent to the world aged 18.
“After the match I said he is going to be a potential multi-grand slam winner,” said Nadal.
“And I still think that, if he’s able to keep improving, he will be a multi-grand slam winner. He has a lot of amazing things in his game, and his results say that. When he’s playing well, it’s very difficult to stop him.”
Frenchman Gael Monfils is also in the quarter-finals after dismissing Novak Djokovic Serbian stand-in Miomir Kecmanovic in three straight sets 7-5 7-6 6-3.