MELBOURNE, January 27, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
The battle between World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 26 Aussie Nick Kyrgios headlined Monday’s fourth-round action at the Australia Open when the pair met in front of a packed crowd on Rod Laver Arena. It has already been the eighth clash between these players, with Nadal leading 4-3 in their Head2Head record. The 33-year-old Spaniard also prevailed in four sets during their latest encounter at Wimbledon last year.
In Melbourne, Nadal emerged victorious with the exact same result as in their latest match, winning 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) in three hours and 38 minutes.
“When he is playing like today, with this positive attitude, he gives good things to this sport,” Nadal said. “I like the Kyrgios who played this tournament.”
The 19-time Grand Slam champion rushed through the first set without allowing Kyrgios a single set point and losing just two points on first serve (17/19). Nadal remained dominant in the opening game of the second set, but Kyrgios managed to produce his best tennis under pressure to save three break points. After this game, the overall circumstances changed and Nadal started to create more errors on his dominate forehand side. As a result, Kyrgios was able to develop a break point at Nadal’s second service game, which he could effectively convert to get in lead for the first time in the match. The 24-year-old Canberra native went on serving well and produced three comfortable holds of serve to tie the score in sets.
The third set was very even with Nadal earning the only break point but being unable to take profit of it since Kyrgios hit a well-placed first serve. In the subsequent tie-break, both showed obvious nerves, when Kyrgios hit an extremely fast second serve that caused a double fault, followed by Nadal hitting another double fault on set point. However, the 33-year-old Spaniard remained composed and earned the 2-1 lead by winning 8-6 in the tie-break.
Nadal grabbed a quick break in the fourth set, which was just his second break of the entire match and went on serving extremely well to set up a potential match-winning service game at 5-4.
Kyrgios, however, did not consider giving up, tried to unsettle Nadal with an uncommon shot selection, aiming to force him hitting errors – with ensuing success. The 24-year-old Aussie extorted another tie-break, in which, albeit, he produced a weighty unforced error after hitting a drop shot into the net which eventually costed him the match.
They don’t call him the world No.1 for nothing ☝️🇪🇸
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2020
“It was a very tough match,” Nadal said during his on-court interview. “In the beginning I was in control, but you’re never in control against Nick. When I made the mistake on serve in the second set, with one serve of mine, it was so difficult to break him again.
“I did the same in the fourth set, but he played a good game. I played a scary game at 5-4, it’s part of the sport and you have to accept it. I tried to recover mentally for 6-5 and then the tie-break.”
The Mallorcan will next face World No. 5 Dominic Thiem. Asked about his upcoming quarterfinal match against the Austrian, Nadal said: “He’s a great character and a tough competitor. I will need to play at my best, but I feel I am moving in the right direction. I played well against Pablo two days ago and again tonight against one of the best tennis players in the world. I hope to keep going.”
Thiem cruised past No. 10 seed Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 50 minutes to reach his maiden quarterfinal at Melbourne Park. “I think that I played my best match so far of this Australian Open. A very, very good feeling,” Thiem said during the on-court interview. “The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and then was managing to hold my serve well. I’m so happy because I’m for the first time in the quarter-finals here.”
The No. 5 seed from Austria won 85 per cent first-serve points (39/46), struck 31 winners, and did not allow the Frenchman a single break point during the entire match. With today’s victory, Thiem got back to number four in the live rankings, overtaking Daniil Medvedev.
Wawrinka finds back to old strength
Earlier the day, Stan Wawrinka sealed a hard-fought 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-2 victory over Russian high-flyer and No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev. It was the first victory for Wawrinka over Medvedev, who leads their ATP Head2Head series by 2-1. The three-time major champion from Switzerland struck 18 aces, won 76 per cent (72/95) first points and hit 71 winners on his way into his first quarterfinal Down Under since 2017. Medvedev is still looking for his first victory in a five-setter (0-6).
“After I lost a little bit my confidence in my forehand, he had the confidence to really go for it,” Wawrinka said afterwards. “I had to really fight with myself to go a little bit against my game, trying to keep pushing him, trying to keep trying to go to the net. I was losing a lot of points. I knew that was the key: try to be aggressive.”
“It’s amazing for me to keep playing here and to play at that level. I’m really proud of what I’ve done on the court and I’m looking forward to playing in the quarter-finals […] Today I played my best match since coming back from injury.”
Wawrinka awaits 22-year-old German Alexander Zverev next, who ended Andrey Rublev’s 15-match winning streak to reach his maiden quarterfinal in Melbourne. The No. 7 seed prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes. Zverev earned 91 per cent (49/51) first-serve points and hit 11 aces. Furthermore, he struck 34 winners and won seven out of his nine net points.
The Hamburg native has played a flawless tournament so far, as he did not drop a single set en route to the last-eighth round. “The first match [against Marco Cecchinato] was not the best, but I won,” said Zverev. “The second match [against Egor Gerasimov] wasn’t the best either, but I won. Then it went better and better. I hope it will continue being like that. The draw isn’t getting easier. Stan is a multiple Grand Slam champion. It’s going to be very difficult playing against him.”
The #AO2020 Men’s Singles Final 🎱
🇪🇸 Rafael Nadal v Dominic Thiem 🇦🇹
🇨🇭 Stan Wawrinka v Alexander Zverev 🇩🇪
🇺🇸 Tennys Sandgren v Roger Federer 🇨🇭
🇨🇦 Milos Raonic v Novak Djokovic 🇷🇸#AusOpen
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2020