Rafael Nadal had to dig deep to defeat Diego Schwartzman in a tough 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 win to reach his 10th Australian Open quarterfinal and keep his No. 1 ranking.
Nadal was out in front early with a set and a break but the diminutive Argentine kept pushing and pushing the action. Cracking winners off both wings. And after Nadal blew three break leads, Schwartzman made him pa taking the tiebreaker.
Nadal, though, settled in and fought off the 25-year-old in 3-hours, 51-minutes.
“Was a tough match in general terms,” Nadal said. “I missed opportunities in the second. That’s the true. Three times break up in the second. Then you lose that many chances and you’re in trouble. But of course he played well, and he played aggressive. Yep, he did a lot of things well, and I didn’t play as aggressive as I did last couple of days. That’s why I was suffering more. Conditions out there were not easy this afternoon. Very humid.
“And was a tough match. But very happy to be through, of course.”
Nadal said his serve helped him to victory in the end.
“My serve start to work much better after the second,” he said. “I started to win some free points again with the serve, because for a set and a half almost I didn’t win a free point with my serve. So that’s not good news during that part of the match. That’s why I lost that many chances, three times the opportunity to be break, to confirm the break, and I didn’t.
“Then in the third and fourth my serve started working better, and probably that’s why I am here with a victory.”
Nadal, who has now won 11 straight matches in Grand Slam play, moves on to meet former US Open champion Marin Cilic, his first opponent faced outside the Top 20 since the French.
The Croat edged Nadal’s compatriot and Spanish No. 2 Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(0), 7-6(3) to claim his 100th career match win in a Grand Slam event.
“I’m very pleased,” said Cilic who blew break leads in multiple sets. “I felt that I played all four matches on a good quality. Today, I was looking at some small details. I was a little bit up and down on some service games, and he was returning quite good. It was a little bit more difficult. But overall I’m feeling good with the game. I’m hitting the ball really nicely, taking chances, playing aggressive, taking the ball as early as I can. So overall, feeling good.”
The other quarterfinal was also set. Kyle Edmund kept British hopes alive by coming back on Andreas Seppi 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 to reach his very first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“It’s great to be in the quarterfinals,” Edmund said. “Definitely pleased. Shows I’m improving. Also hard work, you know, paying off. You know, like you said, just that constant, just, working at everything, my game, on and off the court. It’s good when you get results and it comes together.
“Whoever I’m playing on Tuesday, you know, I have to believe I’m going to win and believe in my game and stuff. That’s the way I have approached it, one match at a time, and I continue to do that.”
On Tuesday that man across the net will be Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian avenged a loss to Nick Kyrgios two weeks ago in Brisbane by beating the Australian in a thrilling 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4).
“What can I say?” Dimitrov told the crowd after. “Playing against Nick is always tricky. He was serving unbelievable, competing unbelievable. He fought really hard. Even when I was serving for the match, I felt it was not over. I am just glad to get through.”
In a tight match tussle, Dimitrov edged Kyrgios in an opening tirade. More of the same in the second with bombs flying off Kyrgios’s racquet. Dimitrov grabbed a break however couldn’t hold it, though finished off Kyrgios in another breaker.
Kyrgios would finally get a lead and ride his serve to the fourth, but would it be too little too late?
With hopes fading, Kyrgios kept crushing serves, but a crushed overhead into the net gave Dimitrov at 5-3 lead and a chance to serve it out. Surely it was over? Nope! Dimitrov folded giving Kyrgios more life, and he took advantage pressing a breaker. Dimitrov though proved the better winning four of the last five points capping it off with a scintillating pass.
Kyrgios finished with 36 aces and 76 winners, but it wasn’t enough in the end to bring Australia a home Slam title.
“Tough battle out there against my good friend Grigor Dimitrov,” Kyrgios posted on facebook before press. “Couldn’t get the win tonight, but thank you all for the support to try and get me over the line. I fought hard but this time it wasn’t enough.”
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