After fending off four set points and being unable to convert the first six of his own, Rafael Nadal finally clinched a 28-minute and 40-second tiebreaker to get himself on track to secure a spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 14th time.
After a 7-6 (14), 6-2, 6-2 fourth-round victory over fellow left-hander Adrian Mannarino on Sunday, Nadal is now potentially just three wins away from a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title. The 35-year-old Spaniard moved to equal-second with John Newcombe on the all-time list for most quarterfinals in Australia. Roger Federer tops that list with 15.
It’s also his 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 20 major titles with Federer and Djokovic. But he’s the only one of the trio playing in this tournament.
Mannarino, who didn’t finish his third-round win 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 at Rod Laver Arena, where temperatures approached 33 Celsius.
“First set (was) very, very emotional,” Nadal said. “Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end. I had chances, he had a lot of chances too.”
“I’m very happy I survived that first set, without a doubt,” he added. “That crazy first set was so important.”
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.
Next up for Nadal will be either No. 3 Alexander Zverev or No. 14 Denis Shapovalov, who were playing on Margaret Court Arena around the same time.