Rafael Nadal rolled into the Australian Open fourth round with an airtight 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over friend and countryman Pablo Carreno Busta.
Nadal, who hasn’t lost to a compatriot in three years, played some of his best tennis during the 1 hour, 40 minute destruction which saw the world No. 1 drop just 10 points on serve while pounding 42 winners to only 7 unforced.
“It’s my best match of the tournament without a doubt,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy to be in the fourth round.
“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 will now meet Nick Kyrgios who outlasted Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(10-8) in 4 hours, 26 minutes, the longest match of the Australian’s young career.
Kyrgios shrugged off some early leg issues, went up two sets and held match points in both the third and fourth set tiebreaks.
Khachanov, who went to a fifth set tiebreaker in his last round against Mikael Ymer, kept the pressure on with his serve while Kyrgios bunted his back and toyed around with drop shots.
In the final breaker, Kyrgios got out quick 3-0 before Khachanov came back to eventually lead 8-7 with two serves to come. He would not win another point as Kyrgios won the last three to advance.
“It was crazy,” Kyrgios told the crowd. “I don’t even know what to say right now, that was insane. I’ve got no words for how I’m feeling right now. None of this would’ve happened without my team. This is epic, man.”
Nadal leads Kyrgios 4-3 in their head-to-head.
“Whatever happens between us he’s an amazing player arguably the greatest of all time,” Kyrgios said about Rafa. “I’m mot thinking about that right now. Thinking about my legs, getting in an ice bath, get some food. He’s a champion. I’ll do everything I can now, hopefully I can give everything I have.”
Dominic Thiem proved the fitter man against Taylor Fritz, who like the Austrian also won a 5-setter in the last round. Thiem dropped the third but held off the American in the fourth to win 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4.
“Somehow in the meetings so far, the US Open and here, I pulled myself out of very close situations,” Thiem said of his 3-1 record over Fritz. “In the Laver Cup, he turned the tables. He’s serving great. You have to expect close matches against him. That was today again the case.
“Again, I pulled it out. For sure going to be different stories in some future matches.”
Up next for the world No. 5 is Gael Monfils who went down an early break but came back to defeat qualifier Ernests Gulbis 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-3. Thiem leads the Frenchmen 5-0.
“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. “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.
“I’m expecting a tough encounter. But second week of a Slam is special. Every opponent is playing outstanding tennis. It’s going to be a really good and tough match.”
Former champion Stan Wawrinka remained in the hunt and he did it the easy way. After surviving in Andreas Seppi in five sets Thursday, a foot injury derailed John Isner down 6-4, 4-1.
Wawrinka moves on to take duel Daniil Medvedev who breezed past Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to return to the fourth round.
Medvedev’s countryman Andrey Rublev stayed red-hot winning his 11th straight of the year overcoming a set deficit to dismiss No. 11 seed David Goffin 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(4).
After a rough ATP Cup, Alexander Zverev seems to have found his form. The German hasn’t dropped a set in three matches, and Saturday he came from a break down in the third to beat former semifinalist Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
Tomorrow, following a four hour marathon, Roger Federer returns to test his 38-year-old body against Marton Fucsovics. Federer beat the Hungarian in this round a few years ago in Melbourne, but Federer was fresher then.
Novak Djokovic continues his title defense against the sturdy Diego Schwartzman. Tennys Sandgren bids for a return to the Australian Open quarters against Fabio Fognini and big men Marin Ciic and Milos Raonic meet.
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