Rafael Nadal is getting better and better. After a second round scare in which he saved two matchpoints to unheralded Tim Smyczek, Nadal has won his next two matches without losing a set, including today’s 75. 61, 64 victory over the 15th-ranked Kevin Anderson to make his 8th straight Australian Open quarterfinal. And he says now that’s he near full strength again.
“Happy the way I played today,” Nadal said. “Is the first day that I felt that I was playing at the level that I want to play and the way that I want to play. Let’s have a chance to practice tomorrow, keep doing well the things I did today, and then try to arrive for the next match with the highest energy possible and try to be ready for it. I know it’s going to be very tough.”
Despite the improved play and the fact he’s beaten his next foe, Tomas Berdych, 17 straight times, Nadal still doesn’t feel he’s a favorite.
“I am one of the eight. That’s the most important thing,” Nadal said. “Seriously, for me, I cannot talk about that. I never talked during my career about that. But especially in this moment when you are coming back after a period of time where you were not on competition and you’re going to play a very tough player like Tomas Berdych that he started the season great playing very well in Doha, and now he’s here in quarterfinals.
“But for me quarterfinals is a great result, talking seriously. Arriving here, losing in the first round of Qatar, not playing matches for the last seven months, to have the chance to be in quarterfinals again here is a very positive thing for me. I’m very happy for that. I am sure that going to help me for the next events.
“For sure I going to try my best after tomorrow. I am not a person that I am happy like this and that’s it. No. I try to play better and better every day. If that happens, I hope to keep having chances for the next match. But today is a day to be happy the way that I improved my level of everything, talking about tennis, all the things I have to do on court. I was closer today. Even if I played the first two sets the other day well, today I was much closer what I have to do to try to have success.”
Nadal leads Berdych 18-3 but he remains wary of the Czech who has never beaten him in Grand Slam play.
“Doesn’t matter what happened in the past,” Nadal said. “Is different story this time. Different moment for me; different moment for him. So the way we arrive to that match don’t going to affect what happened in the match. I’m sure of that. He’s a great player. I have success against him, but I have the chances to lose against him. I remember 2012 probably I had a very, very tough match against him here. It was close to be two sets to love down. He’s a player that is top level.”
Nadal has won 16 of his last 18 matches at the Australian Open, losing in the finals the last two times he’s played. Rafa won the title in 2009 beating rival Roger Federer.
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