Former No. 1 Rafael Nadal’s match against rising German teen Alexander Zverev met the hype on Saturday at the Australian Open, where the No. 9-seeded Spaniard’s experience prevailed from 1-2 sets down 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2.
“[He] is a player that has an amazing potential,” Nadal said afterwards. “He is able to produce great shots. He’s already one of the best players of the world. He can be even better. He can be fighting for the most important things. So I think he will do it…I worked a lot during all December to have the chances to compete well this these kind of moments. Even if I start the match with some nerves, I think I was able to came back well, no?”
Any questions regarding Nadal’s fitness were answered Saturday, while the teenager ended up cramping in the fifth set.
“I cramped after that long rally,” Zverev said afterwards. “I still had game points to go up 3-2. I lost my service game I think because of that a little bit. So, yeah, those are a big reason for it…That was a great fight. There’s a lot of positives in this match. I think he’s probably one of the fittest tennis players in the history of the game, so…obviously I wanted to win. I could have won. It’s disappointing. But I’m fine actually. I am close. I kind of showed it a few times last year, and this now. We played for over four hours. It was not an easy match. There’s a few things here and there I could do better. All in one, I think I’m pretty happy with my performance.”
Nadal’s next opponent will be No. 6 Gael Monfils, who eased past No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-4.
No. 3 seed Milos Raonic continued to overcome his health issues in defeating No. 25 seed Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3.
Raonic said he was still suffering the after-effects of his illness earlier this week.
“I had a bad fever,” the Canadian said. “I didn’t come here yesterday. I just slept pretty much all day. Yeah, everything was aching. Just sort of those kind of symptoms.”
He will next meet No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated fellow Spaniard and No. 21 seed David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 6-4.
No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem and No. 11 David Goffin booked a fourth-round meeting after the Austrian topped temperamental Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, and the Belgian easily handled No. 20-seeded serving machine Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Goffin said he found his rhythm after facing some of the biggest servers in the tournament.
“Played against [Reilly] Opelka first round, so it’s never easy to find your groundstrokes,” Goffin said. “But after the second round, the match against [Radek] Stepanek, I was feeling much better. And then today it was almost a perfect match against a guy like Ivo, who is serving bombs all the time. And every time I was on the ball, it was a great return. So I did some good shots, and I was really solid. So now I’m feeling really good, and I’m really happy to win in three sets. Because to have that kind of score against Ivo, it’s not every day that you can break him four times.”
Unseeded Uzbek Denis Istomin successfully followed up his win over world No. 2 Novak Djokovic by defeating No. 30 seed Pablo Carreno Busta in another lengthy five-setter 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
“It’s mentally was tough because after beating Novak, I mean, Carreno is also a great player,” he said. “After beating Novak, I don’t want to lose like three sets in a row, and then everybody saying that I’m was dead.”
Istomin in the fourth round will meet the winner of No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 18 Richard Gasquet, which started Saturday at 11:58 p.m. in Melbourne.
Matches Sunday in Melbourne are (1) Andy Murray vs. Mischa Zverev, (17) Roger Federer vs. (5) Kei Nishikori, (4) Stan Wawrinka vs. Andras Seppi, and (12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Brit Daniel Evans.
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