Nadal Enters Second Week Down Under After A Flawless Performance

MELBOURNE, January 25, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal continued his quest for his second Australian Open singles title with a comfortable 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win on Saturday over compatriot and No. 27 seed Pablo Carreno Busta in just an hour and 38 minutes.

“It’s my best match of the tournament without a doubt,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy to be in the fourth round.”

Nadal did not allow Carreno Busta a single break point and broke his serve five times during the encounter. Additionally, the 33-year-old Mallorcan hit nine aces and won 87 per cent (52/62) of his service points.

“When he plays that comfortably, there’s nothing you can do,” Carreno Busta said in the press-conference afterwards. “Nadal’s down-the-line lefty forehand was perfectly on-target and “impossible to read.”

During the match, Nadal showed aggressive power tennis from the baseline but did also not shy away from rushing to the net to save energy by ending the point faster (11/12 points won at the net).

“Today I did very well with my serve and started to hit some good forehands down the line, which is a key shot for me,” Nadal said.

Nadal, who is chasing a record-equaling 20th Major title in Melbourne, hit 42 winners and just a little amount of 7 unforced errors on his road into the fourth round.

More seeds in action

2019 US Open finalist and No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev showed a concentrated performance against 20-year-old Aussie Alexei Popyrin, prevailing 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. With today’s victory, Medvedev improved to 7-1 in 2020.

He will next face three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka who had a short day at the office after US-American John Isner was forced to retire at the score of 4-6, 1-4 due to an on-going foot injury that he suffered back in 2019.

World No. 5 Dominic Thiem had to put in more effort on his way to a hard-fought 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 win over No. 29 seed Taylor Fritz in two hours and 50 minutes.

Thiem extended their ATP Head2Head series to 3-1, after already prevailing at the US Open in 2017 and 2018 but falling to Fritz in the 2019 edition of the Laver Cup.

“I also have to say, honestly, that I got pretty lucky in the three meetings against him. I remember at US Open and also today, I think especially in the second set, saved six… break points,” Thiem said. “Somehow in the meetings so far, the US Open and here, I pulled myself out of very close situations. In the Laver Cup, he turned the tables. He’s serving great. You have to expect close matches against him.”

Thiem fired 12 aces, won 77 per-cent (69/90) first serve points and saved 6 of 7 breakpoints against the US-American.

Next up for the 26-year-old Austrian will be Frenchman Gael Monfils, who earlier the day prevailed 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-3 against Latvian qualifier and former top-10-player Ernests Gulbis.

Thiem has never lost a match against Monfils, leading 5-0 in their Head2Head series.

“It’s always fun to play against him. Such a great athlete. Such a great sportsman. We had fun and great encounters in the past. I expect similar,” Thiem said about Monfils. “[It’s] going to be a nice atmosphere, as well. He’s such a good shot-maker, always amazing rallies against him. He got back into Top 10 last year, playing great as well in the beginning of this year.”

No. 7 seed Alexander Zverev continued his great run of form in Melbourne by sealing a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 over Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco in an hour and 56 minutes. Only for the second time in his career, the 22-year-old German managed to win three consecutive encounters at a major without dropping a single set.

“I just enjoyed, it actually. I just enjoyed being out here,” Zverev said. “It was the best match I’ve played so far this week.”

Once again in the tournament, Zverev convinced with a strong service performance, winning 77 per-cent first serve points (47/61) and hitting 15 aces. Furthermore, the Hamburg native saved four of five breakpoints.

Zverev will next face No. 17 seed Andrey Rublev, who extended his winning streak to 15 matches by coming back from a set down to beat world No. 11 David Goffin 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(4).

“Everything is great with the confidence, but sometimes it’s not about confidence. Today I wasn’t serving as well as I did in the second round and it became more about the mental side. How you accept this, how you still be positive instead of being negative. Mental is the main important thing in tennis,” the Russian afterwards commented on his comeback. “[I told myself] I can’t accept this, don’t show emotions, try to keep fighting, try to be positive just to see if in an important moment somehow I will get lucky and have one breakpoint or something like that.”

Rublev became the first man to win back-to-back titles in the opening two weeks of the season in Doha and Adelaide since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004.

Kyrgios survives thrilling five-setter

World No. 26 Nick Kyrgios was set to face No. 16 seed Karen Khachanov on Melbourne Arena in front of a packed, loud-cheering home crowd. In the end, it turned out to be the most thrilling and longest encounter of the day. After four hours and 25 minutes, Kyrgios sealed the last point in a match tie-break, prevailing 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6 [10-8].

During the first set, Kyrgios called the trainer and eventually took an off court medical time-out. “I landed on my serve and I felt something, I did not know what was going on,” Kyrgios said afterwards.

However, the potential injury did not stop him from dominating the match and winning the first two sets after half an hour. In the third set too, it seemed as if Kyrgios, who will return to No. 1 Aussie spot after the Australian Open, would continue flying past his Russian opponent, as he once again secured the first break in the third set.

Despite the clear backlog, Khachanov did not consider giving up and stayed composed to eventually take profit of an inattentive service game from Kyrgios to tie the score in the third set again, making it 4-4. In the following third set tie-break, the Moscow native managed to save a match point. Khachanov fended off another match point as well in the fourth set to force a deciding set.

The fifth set was once again dominated by strong serving and hold of serves, no player managed to earn a break point. Down the road, Kyrgios fought back from 7-8 down in the match tie-break, winning three consecutive points to reach the second week Down Under.

During the match, the Canberra native hit 97 winners (33 aces) compared to 52 unforced errors. “This is just epic, man. I don’t even know what’s going on. Honestly, my legs feel about 40 kilos each,” said Kyrgios. “That’s definitely one of the best wins of my career, I think.”

Kyrgios will next face none other than world No. 1 Nadal for a place in the quarterfinals. The Mallorcan leads their Head2Head series by 4-3, having won their latest encounter in Wimbledon last year in four sets. Whatever happens between us, he is an amazing player. Arguably greatest of all time. He is a champion, I’ll do everything I can,” Kyrgios said during the on-court interview.