World No.2 Rafael Nadal is taking nothing for granted ahead of his quarter-final meeting with a potentially ‘dangerous’ Frances Tiafoe at the Australian Open.
The 11-time French Open champion cruised into the quarter-finals of the tournament after brushing aside a frustrated Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-1, 7-6(4). Nadal started the match in clinical fashion by winning 12 out of the first 13 games to seal a two sets lead after just over an hour of play. Hitting 32 winners to 17 unforced errors and breaking Berdych five times during the match.
“He had one of these days where he wasn’t on his game,” said Nadal. “I expected in the third set that he would push me, and he had his chances, even had a set point. That was a very real set, more than the first two, and I’m very happy to be in the quarter-finals again.”
Berdych, who missed most of the 2018 season due to a back injury, wasn’t afraid to show his emotion during the match. In the closing stages, the Czech player lost his cool during the tiebreaker when the shot clock stopped working. Complaining to the umpire about the situation. From that moment, Berdych didn’t win another point in the match.
Berdych on his frustration at the shot clock breaking: 'Well, I mean, we can talk other things. I think it's already done. What can we do? It's all right. It's just a clock.'
— George Bellshaw (@BellshawGeorge) January 20, 2019
Nadal is yet to lose a set in the tournament heading into the quarter-final stage. Melbourne is the first event where he is testing out a new service motion. The change has been made to help reduce the amount of pressure put on the body of the 32-year-old. 12 months ago Novak Djokovic also changed his serve following his elbow injury.
“I just try things to improve my game. I talk with the team about the things, the aspects of the game that we can keep improving. We try to make that happen.” He explained.
“With the serve, we changed a few things, but nothing drastic, nothing dramatic. Good thing I had some time to work with it. I am happy, more or less, how the serve is working during the first official event that I am playing.”
The next test comes in the shape of American rising star Tiafoe. Celebrating his 21st birthday today, the rising star battled his way to a 7-5 7-6 (6), 6-7 (1), 7-5, win over Grigor Dimitrov. Hitting a total of 63 winners to become only the third male player from his country to reach the last eight of the Australian Open this decade.
“He has everything. He’s quick. He served well. Very quick forehand. He’s a very dynamic player, aggressive one. Of course, he’s dangerous.” Nadal said about Tiafoe. “He’s in quarter-finals. He won great matches during the whole event. It’s going to be a tough one.”
“I played some good matches until that round, and now is the moment to keep doing steps forward to keep having chances to keep — to give myself chances to keep going.” He added.
World No.39 Tiafoe is hailed as one of America’s brightest prospects in the sport. As a junior, he won the prestigious Orange Bowl at the age of 15. Two years later, he became the youngest American man to feature in the French Open draw since 1989. Since then, Tiafoe has enjoyed a steady rise on the tour with both triumphs and setbacks. Last year he won his maiden ATP title in Delray Beach.
This upcoming encounter will be the sixth time Nadal has played in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Australian Open: Stefanos Tsitsipas Battles Back To Beat Fritz In Five
The Greek fourth seed prevailed in a marathon encounter which lasted almost three-and-a-half hours at Melbourne Park.
World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame a major scare to down American Taylor Fritz to book his place in the quarter finals.
Fritz was two sets to one up and looked to be cruising, only for Tsitsipas to steal the fourth before motoring away in the fifth; 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The result will be a bitter pill for the 20th seed to swallow, but he can take heart from taking Tsitsipas all the way.
The fourth round is the furthest Fritz has gone in a Grand Slam and it was the big match experience that gave the Greek the vital edge in best of five sets.
The first set began with both players holding serve.
Fritz and Tsitsipas know each other’s game well having grown up as juniors together, and the mutual respect was on show for all to see.
The Rod Laver Arena crowd saw the first glimpse of the world number 22’s skills, as he lobbed Tsitsipas at 2-2 in the opening set, much to their delight.
Fritz got the decisive break in game seven, to surge 4-3 ahead.
He held his next two service games to claim the set 6-4.
But the fourth seed was not going away, and produced some powerful groundstrokes to steam through his service games.
The Greek ace pounced towards the end of the second set, stealing the break of serve, to level the match.
At the beginning of the third, 30-love down, Tsitsipas won a 23-shot rally with a rasping backhand winner down the line, one of his signature shots.
This was crucial in the Greek holding serve.
But with exact symmetry of the first set, Fritz broke at 3-3, then held serve to take a 5-3 lead.
Tsitsipas looked to be cruising through his service game at 40-30, but Fritz battled back to deuce and saw three set points saved by the Greek.
It mattered not, like the first set, Fritz won his next service game and went up two sets to one.
An upset was brewing out on Rod Laver Arena and the crowd strapped back, almost sensing it would go the distance.
It did. Tsitsipas blasted his way back into the match, breaking the American at 4-3 with some sublime hitting, and took the set 6-3.
Tsitsipas now had all the momentum and it was a final set shoot out.
Fritz held serve to keep his nose in front, but at 4-4 Tsitsipas struck and broke the American at deuce with his first break point.
Tsitsipas made no mistake in serving out a five-set classic and sealed his place, yet again, in the Australian Open quarter finals.
The winner had this to say afterwards.
“An epic match. I gave everything on the court,” he said.
“I’m proud of the way I fought and the way I stayed consistent in the crucial moments. I am overwhelmed, the stadium was on fire.”
Felix Auger Aliassime Overcomes Slow Start To Reach Australian Open Quarters
The Montreal native became the second Canadian to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open after winning in four sets.
Felix Auger Aliassime booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after beating the number 27 seed Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 in three hours and 35 minutes.
The Canadian battled on court for more than three-and-a-half hours as he produced a total of 37 winners and 22 aces. Meanwhile, Cilic leaked a costly 60 unforced errors. It is the first time the 21-year-old has reached the last eight at Melbourne Park and also the first time he has beaten his Croatian oponent on the Tour after suffering three losses to him.
“It’s amazing. It puts my belief even higher, I lost three times to Marin in the past, this is my first win against him and in an important moment like this,” said Auger-Aliassime.
“I told him at the end of the match he’s a champion, the way he handles himself and the way he plays and I knew he was going to come out with his best level and test me and make me earn my win.
“So I’m really relieved and happy to get through, especially the way I did it.”
To begin with Cilic got off to a better start in the match by getting the early break to take a 2-1 lead. He then turned his lead into a double break before serving out the first set.
The second set was a much tighter affair with the Canadian getting more chances to break but being unable to convert which paved way for a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker was even closer and at 8-7, it was the world number nine with a huge forehand winner to seal the set and even the match at one set apiece.
Three games into the third set the Montreal native had six chances to break before he was finally able to convert and take a 2-1 lead. At 4-2, he managed to go up a double break which was enough of a margin for him to restore his lead in the match to two sets to one.
The fourth set was yet again a battle of the two big servers who were doing a good job of holding serve and again the set was decided by a crucial tiebreaker.
Auger-Aliassime jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the breaker and that quick start was enough for him to serve out the match and reach his first-ever quarterfinal down under.
The ninth seed will face world number two Danil Medvedev in the quarterfinals on Wednesday after the Russian beat the American Maxime Cressy in four sets.
Auger-Aliassime is the second Canadian man through to the quarter-finals after Denis Shapovalov. It is the first time in history two players from the country have reached the last eight of the Australian Open during the same year.
Daniil Medvedev Holds Off Cressy To Reach Australian Open Quarters
The Russian was heard describing the game of his rival as ‘boring’ before later explaining that it was a tactic of his.
Daniil Medvedev is through to the last eight of the Australian Open for a second year in a row after defeating America’s Maxime Cressy in a tight four-set encounter.
The world No.2 was put through his paces throughout his 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-5, win over the world No.70 who has made a stellar start to the season. Prior to the Grand Slam Cressy reached his maiden Tour final at the Melbourne Summer Set which he lost to Rafael Nadal. Despite the talents of the underdog, Medvedev was still the dominant force as he fired 13 aces and won 85% of his first service points. The Russian also produced a total of 58 winners against 11 unforced errors.
“I’m ok with it, he really did it well but I don’t see anybody on the Tour who really loves and say ‘do it again,” Medvedev said of Cressy’s serve and volley game during an intervierw with Eurosport.
“When I lost the third (set) and had eight break points in the fourth and I didn’t make them, I was like ‘come on, do something!.’ Some of those I could have won but he (Cressy) also played good.“
Earlier on in the fourth round encounter Medvedev looked to have full control as he raced through the opener in less than 40 minutes by breaking Cressy twice. However, he began to face some stern resistance from the American during the second frame who used the serve and volley to effective use. 11 games went by with no break point opportunity before it was Cressy, who had a set point chance at 6-5. However, Medvedev saved the point with a spotless drop shot to keep him alive before going on to prevail in the tiebreak.
Both players started to suffer physical issues during the third set. First, it was Medvedev who took a medical time out to have work done on his glute. Around 10 minutes later it was his opponent who then had treatment for what appeared to be the same issue. It was also visible that Cressy was suffering some minor discomfort in one of his calves.
With all to play for, Medvedev was on the verge of victory after securing a mini-break midway through the third set tiebreak before Cressy conducted an emphatic fight back. Cressy’s tactic of continuously coming to the net to apply pressure drew errors from his opponent as he worked his way to a 6-4 lead before snatching the set after a Medvedev forehand slammed into the net.
It was evident that the underdog started to frustrate Medvedev who shouted ‘this is so boring’ during the early stages of the fourth set which appeared to be in reference to his opponent’s serve and volley game. During another outburst, he was heard saying ‘It’s simply unbelievable how lucky he is getting. I’ve never seen anything like this my whole life!’
Following those outbursts and failing to convert eight break point chances, Medvedev broke at the most critical time. Tied at 5-5 a winning forehand passing shot moved him to a game away from victory. He then sealed the win on his first match point by hitting another blistering forehand winner.
“It was a great match. During the match I got a little bit crazy with myself. I tried to say something out loud to try and get into his mind a little bit. Maybe, he’s going to start thinking ‘what the hell is Medvedev saying?” Medvedev replied when questioned about his outbursts.
“I am not happy with what I said today, but the most important (thing) is that I continued fighting.” He added.
Medvedev has become the fifth Russian man in the Open Era to have reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on multiple occasions. This year he is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win his second major title at the next Grand Slam event. Furthermore, should he triumph in Melbourne he will topple Novak Djokovic to become world No.1.
Medvedev will play Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the next round.
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