2021 in Review: Rafael Nadal joins Novak Djokovic in the last eight

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2021 in Review: Rafael Nadal joins Novak Djokovic in the last eight

World no. 2 Rafael Nadal secured a place in the 13th Australian Open quarter-final after a rock-solid 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Fabio Fognini in two hours and 16 minutes. Nadal lost serve twice and delivered six breaks from 19 opportunities to sail through, trailing in set number two and overcoming the deficit to advance into the last eight without losing a set despite back issues.

Nadal provided four excellent holds and two breaks in the opener for 6-3, serving at only 42% but dropping six points behind the initial shot. Fabio had more winners and more unforced errors, stealing Rafa's serve once but falling behind after two loose service games.

Rafa held at 15 in the first game when Fabio netted a backhand and grabbed a break in the next one when his opponent sprayed another backhand mistake. Nadal landed a perfect backhand down the line winner to secure the third game and open a 3-0 lead in 13 minutes.

Finding his strokes, Fognini broke back at 15 in game five with a backhand winner, but Nadal captured another break a few minutes later with a deep return to restore the order and open a 4-2 gap. The Spaniard confirmed the lead with a hold at 15 and created three set points on the return in the next one.

Digging deep, the Italian escaped and held after seven deuces to reduce the deficit before the Spaniard held at love with a service winner in game nine for 6-3 in 46 minutes.

Rafael Nadal defeated Fabio Fognini in straight sets in Melbourne.

Nadal found himself 4-2 down in the second set before rattling off four straight games to raise his level and bring the second set home for a massive advantage.

Fognini clinched a break in the sixth game when Nadal's forehand landed long. Rafa pulled the break back in the next one after seizing the fifth break opportunity following Fognini's massive forehand error. Serving in game eight, the 2009 champion fended off three break points, two with service winners, and rattled off five straight points to bring the game home and gain a boost.

Losing the edge, the Italian sprayed a forehand error in game nine to fall 5-4 down and allowed Rafa to seal the set with a hold at love a few minutes later and move closer to the finish line. With momentum on his side, Nadal broke in the third set's third game and confirmed his victory with another successful return game at 3-1 thanks to Fognini's forehand mistake.

Rafa held at 15 in game six and moved over the top with another impressive hold at 5-2 to find himself in the quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.