MELBOURNE, January 20, 2019
Rafael Nadal advanced to quarterfinals of the Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-1, 7-6(4) win and an impressive performance against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. It was their 24th match when they faced off on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday afternoon, but having played at least one match every year from 2005 to 2015, this was their first clash in nearly four years.
Nadal hit 32 winners and broke serve five times to record his 20th victory over the Czech in two hours and five minutes.
“He had one of these days where he wasn’t on his game,” said Nadal. “I expected in the third set that he would push me, and he had his chances, even had a set point. That was a very real set, more than the first two, and I’m very happy to be in the quarterfinals again.
“I always say the same – when I am back from injuries, I don’t expect anything. I just try to do my work every day and be with the right attitude every single day. When you are back, you need a bit of luck at the beginning, because the first couple of matches are important, and I won them. Now we’re in the quarterfinals, so we’ll see what happens now.”
Tiafoe celebrates birthday in style
On Melbourne Arena, US-American Frances Tiafoe continued his stellar form this week by beating No. 20 seed Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria 7-5, 7-6(6), 6-7(1), 7-5 to secure his spot in the quarterfinals against Nadal.
On his 21st birthday, Tiafoe fired 63 winners in total to secure victory after three hours and 39 minutes and has become just the second US-American man to reach the stage of the final eight here since Andy Roddick’s most-recent appearance in the quarterfinals in Melbourne in 2010.
“It means the world. I worked my ass off, man,” Tiafoe was quoted on the AO website. “I told my parents 10 years ago I was going to be a pro and change my life, change their life. Now I’m in the quarters of a slam at 20 years old – 21 years old – I can’t believe it, man.”
In the morning, Tiafoe had a courtside surprise at his practice session when Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley and two of the AO ballkids surprised him on his birthday with a cake and some balloons.
“Yeah, I can’t do anything,” Tiafoe said of his birthday plans. “He’s (Nadal) going to run me like crazy. I got to go to sleep now, matter of fact. Hopefully he wins.
“If I can play him in quarters of a slam, hopefully at night on (Rod) Laver (Arena), it would be amazing. Yeah, he better get ready.”