Nadal reaches Australian Open quarterfinals for the14th time

Nadal reaches Australian Open quarterfinals for the14th time
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his win over Adrian Mannarino of France in their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal finally got the better of a crazy, long tiebreaker and knew he’d won half the battle.



After saving four set points and missing with the first six of his own, Nadal finally clinched a tiebreaker that lasted 28 minutes and 40 seconds to set himself on course to secure a spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 14th time.

After his 7-6 (14), 6-2, 6-2 fourth-round victory over fellow left-hander Adrian Mannarino on Sunday, Nadal is potentially just three wins away from a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

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He later reflected on a tiebreaker where momentum swung wildly; where chants of “Let’s go Rafa, Let’s go!” rang out; where a point was decided on a 25-shot rally with both players scrambling at full stretch; and which ended only when Nadal volleyed from deep in the court and Mannarino’s reflex reply skewed wide.

“Well, you know, I played a couple,” he said, smiling, in reference to long tiebreakers. “But, yeah, (it was) a crazy one, chances for both. And, yeah, lucky to win that tiebreak at the end, no?

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“Half of the match in the tiebreak, without a doubt.”

Nadal will next play Denis Shapovalov, the 22-year-old Canadian who finished off a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Olympic gold medalist Zverev on Margaret Court Arena less than an hour later to reach the last eight in Australia for the first time.

Nadal is now tied with John Newcombe in the second spot on the all-time list for most quarterfinals in Australia, one behind Roger Federer’s 15.

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It’s also the Spaniard’s 45th time into the last eight at a Grand Slam tournament, which is third on the all-time behind Federer (58) and Novak Djokovic (51).

He shares the men’s record of 20 major titles with Federer and Djokovic. But he’s the only one of the trio playing in this tournament. Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament because he didn’t meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination rules. Federer is recovering from an injury.

Mannarino, who didn’t finish his 4-hour, 38-minute four-set, third-round win over No. 18 Aslan Karatsev until after 2 a.m. on Saturday and appeared to be hampered at times by an abdominal or upper leg injury, threw everything at Nadal in the opening set on Rod Laver Arena, where temperatures approached 33 Celsius (91 F).

“After the first set I couldn’t really fight against Rafa,” said the 33-year-old No. 69-ranked Mannarino. “You know, he was playing too well for me not to be 100%. The second and third set just went all the way for Rafa, so that’s it.”

The first set lasted 85 minutes, including the ’breaker, but after getting early breaks in the second and third sets the match was over in 2 hours, 40 minutes.

“I’m very happy I survived that first set, without a doubt,” said the sixth-seeded Nadal, who saved one of the only two breakpoint chances he faced and converted five of 17. “That crazy first set was so important.”





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