TENNIS – Rafael Nadal cruises into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open despite not playing at his best. The No.2 seed has yet to drop a set. He plays the Greek Tsitsipas later this week.
Nadal beat an impressive Cameron Norrie in the third round, ending British interest in the singles competition. He saw off a spirited Norrie, ranked 69th in the world, 7-5 6-2 7-5.
Playing on an empty Rod Laver Arena after Melbourne entered lockdown, Nadal was not at his rhythmic best, but he held off a confident-looking Norrie.
Speaking after the Norrie match, he said: “I combined very good games with a couple of unforced errors that I need to fix. That is normal and hopefully that will help me for what’s coming on Monday.”
Nadal brushes aside Fognini
The 20-time Grand Slam champion played Italy’s Fabio Fognini next. Fognini is the No.16 seed and has a head-to-head record of 1-1 against Nadal in majors. This is not the same story on the tour, where he trails the Spaniard 4-12.
Before their match, Nadal said of Fognini: “When he’s playing well, he’s one of the most dangerous opponents on tour without a doubt, no?”
Nadal raced to a fast start, breaking Fognini on his second attempt during the Italian’s opening service game. But down 1-3, the Italian, who had surgery on both ankles last year, strung together a series of winners to earn the break back.
A barrage of deep groundstrokes by Nadal forced errors from his opponent, giving him a 4-2 lead. Serving to stay in the match, Fognini saved three set points to squeeze out an 11-minute long eighth game, but Nadal held to love, closing out the set 6-3.
There was pressure in the second set as Fognini matched Nadal to 4-4. However, frustration sunk in with Fognini receiving a code violation for smashing the ball into the empty Rod laver arena. Nadal broke and served out for 6-4.
The final set was a masterclass from Nadal. He raced through the games, blasting through an 86-second final game and sealing victory with his sixth ace.
Muguruza disappointed with missed match points
Nadal is the last Spaniard in the main draws. Garbiñe Muguruza lost a closely fought fourth-round contest on Sunday against no. 3 seed, Naomi Osaka of Japan.
Having lost the opening set to Garbine Muguruza, Japan’s Osaka was a break down in the second and faced two match points at 5-3 in the third. Osaka shunned exchanges because she knew she would surely lose out with that formula. e Muguruza, meanwhile, played for rallies, varying length and rhythm.
Muguruza served for the match and had two match points but faded and allowed her rival time to recover. Osaka won four games in a row to win 4-6 6-4 7-5 against the Spaniard, who is also a former world number one.
“I am disappointed, but at the same time happy with how my tennis is going. I have played a lot of games and physically I have felt good… I am left with having done a very good tour,” the Spaniard commented.