Rafael Nadal moves closer to Roger Federer and keeps Novak Djokovic behind after..
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 9509
Competing at the Australian Open for the 16th time, Rafael Nadal is through to his 13th quarter-final, failing to reach the last eight only once in the previous 14 Melbourne trips! Thus, Nadal has stayed in front of Novak Djokovic (12 quarter-finals) and moved closer to Roger Federer, the Open era leader with 15.
Rafa arrived in Melbourne with a minor back injury and had to turn on the aggressive mode, taking control in the rallies and not spending too much time on the court after beating all the rivals in straight sets. Nadal toppled Laslo Djere in the first round and did the same against Michael Mmoh in the second, with both competitions having nothing in their arsenal to challenge the mighty Spaniard.
Rafa had to work harder against Cameron Norrie in the third round, still serving well and overpowering the Briton in the closing stages of sets one and three to forge a 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 victory and secure the place in the last 16.
Facing the first higher-ranked opponent, Nadal ousted Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 16 minutes for the 13th Australian Open quarter-final and 286th Major victory. Nadal lost serve twice and produced six breaks from 19 opportunities, trailing in set number two and overcoming the deficit to advance into the last eight with a perfect record.
Rafael Nadal is the second player with 13 Australian Open quarter-finals.
Rafa held at 15 in the first game when Fabio netted a backhand and grabbed a break in the next one for an early advantage. Finding his strokes, Fognini broke back at 15 in game five with a backhand winner before Nadal grabbed another break a few minutes later with a deep return to open a 4-2 gap.
The Spaniard confirmed the break with a hold at 15 and created three set points on the return a few minutes later. Digging deep, Fabio escaped those and held after seven deuces before Rafa held at love with a service winner in game nine for 6-3.
The Spaniard was 4-2 down in the second set, rattling off four straight games from there to raise his level and turn the tables. Fognini clinched a break at 3-2 when Nadal's forehand landed long, losing the advantage in the next one when Rafa converted the fifth break chance.
Serving in game eight, world no. 2 fended off three break points, grabbed a break in the next one and held at love at 5-4 to cement the set. Nadal broke in the third set's third game and confirmed his victory with another break 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 remain on the title course.