Australian Open: Rafael Nadal Survives Marathon Match
If Rafael Nadal wanted a fitness test in the first week of the Australian Open, he got one in his almost four-hour, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman on Sunday.
No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov did it tough, too, before advancing to the quarterfinals at the expense of the last Aussie in the draw. Dimitrov avenged a loss two weeks ago to Nick Kyrgios with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4) win on Sunday night.
He will next face Kyle Edmund, who reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi.
Edmund, ranked 49th, is the first British man other than Andy Murray to reach the quarterfinals here since John Lloyd was beaten in the quarters in 1985.
Edmund is the eighth British man to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era, but he has a way to go to catch Murray’s 30 appearances.
Nadal, with his spot in a 10th Australian Open quarterfinal secure, draped an arm around his Argentine friend Schwartzman and patted him on top of the head after they met at the net.
Nadal called it “a great battle” and said it had given him “confidence I can resist for four hours on court at a good intensity.”
Nadal lost last year’s Australian Open final to Roger Federer, but went on to regain the No. 1 ranking and win the French and United States Open titles before bringing his season to a premature end because of an injured right knee.
He didn’t play a competitive match before the Australian Open, and he advanced through three rounds without dropping a set.
That streak finished when Schwartzman took the second set, rebounding three times after dropping serve to break back against Nadal and level the match.
Nadal lifted his play to win the third, but Schwartzman didn’t relent.
The second game of the fourth set lasted 20 points and almost 13 minutes, with Nadal finally holding after saving five break points.
He broke again in the next game and withstood more break points — seven in all in the last set and 15 of 18 in the match — before clinching it in 3 hours 51 minutes.
“It was a good test for me,” Nadal said. “It was a lot of hours on court. Moments under pressure. So, yeah, a lot of positive things that I managed well.”
Nadal will next play champion Marin Cilic, who collected his 100th Grand Slam match win with a 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (3) victory over No. 10 Pablo Carreño Busta.
“I had the 300th win of my career at the U.S. Open in 2014, so this is also beautiful one,” said Cilic, who won the 2014 U.S. Open. “I hope I’m going to continue and gather three more here.”
Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki continued to cash in on her second chance, reaching the quarterfinals here for the first time since 2012 with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Magdalena Rybarikova.
After saving match points and coming back from 5-1 down in the third set of her second-round win, Wozniacki said she was “playing with the house money” and had nothing to lose.
“I played really well from being down 5-1,” she said.
After a tight tussle in the opening four games against No. 19-seeded Rybarikova, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, Wozniacki dominated the fourth-round match and conceded only six points in the second set. She tried a between-the-legs shot for the first time in a tour-level match.
“I think you can tell my confidence is high,” Wozniacki said in an on-court TV interview. “I tried a tweener today and it went in.”
Wozniacki next plays Carla Suárez Navarro, who came back from a set and 4-1 down to beat No. 32 Anett Kontaveit, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.
Elise Mertens reached the quarterfinals in her Australian Open debut, beating Petra Martic 7-6 (5), 7-5, to extend her winning streak to nine matches, including a title run at the Hobart International. “It’s been amazing — good start of the year,” Mertens said. “This is really a bonus.”
Mertens’s next opponent is fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who started her fourth-round match just before midnight and was finished within an hour. She beat the Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova, 6-3, 6-0, to reach the quarterfinals here for the first time.