Rafael Nadal advanced into the last eight at the Australian Open thanks to a 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Adrian Mannarino. The Spaniard needed two hours and 40 minutes to topple the Frenchman after a crazy opening set that lasted for 80 minutes, surviving four set points in the tie break that saw 30 points and sailing in sets two and three.
Nadal praised Mannarino after the match, saying that he forced him to play awkward shots and fight for almost every point after pushing strong on serve and return. After he blew his opportunities, Adrian faded from the court in set number two, struggling with an injury and taking only four games in sets two and three to propel Rafa over the top.
Speaking about a tough challenge from the other side of the net, Nadal revealed he slowed the pace of the rallies with his backhand slice that worked like a charm. Also, his returns became deeper from the second set, and those elements pushed him towards victory without spending more time on the court.
Rafael Nadal saved four set points in the opening set against Adrian Mannarino.
Mannarino lost only a couple of points behind the initial shot in the opening set and kept the pressure on the 20-time Major winner. Serving at 5-5, Rafa faced a break point and saved it with a service winner to introduce a tie break that would last for almost half an hour!
From 2-4, Nadal claimed four straight points and earned two set points in the tenth point with a brilliant forehand crosscourt winner. Mannarino saved both with brave hitting for 6-6 and another at 6-7 with an unreturned serve.
The Frenchman wasted his chance at 8-7 following Rafa's service winner, and the Spaniard squandered two more set points at 10-9 and 11-10. Mannarino had three more opportunities to close the set at 12-11, 13-12 and 14-13, but Rafa erased them with winners before creating the seventh set point at 15-14.
World no. 5 converted it after the opponent's volley error and gained a massive boost for the rest of the encounter. "I had to give my everything in the tie break; it was a tough one. I played four great points from 4-2 down but failed to close it, as my serve did not work.
Mannarino played on a high level, hitting awkward and fast balls. It was not easy to challenge him, as he has skills that make you uncomfortable. He returned well in the opener and gave me no breathing space. I introduced my slice backhand to slow the points and gain the advantage, and it served me nicely. After the opener, my returns were deeper, and that carried me over the top," Rafael Nadal said.