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Nadal closes in on Slams record, local favourite Barty advances

Nadal closes in on Slams record, local favourite Barty advances

TENNIS: Rafael Nadal put his old rival Fabio Fognini to the sword to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals and move within three wins of the all-time Grand Slam titles record yesterday (Feb 15).

Tennis
By AFP

Tuesday 16 February 2021, 10:22AM


Spain’s Rafael Nadal beat Fabio Fognini to reach the last eight. Photo: AFP.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal beat Fabio Fognini to reach the last eight. Photo: AFP.

The Spanish great was 1-1 with the flamboyant Italian in Grand Slams but he was never seriously troubled in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal is now into his 43rd Grand Slam quarter-final, staying on course for a title match with eight-time winner Novak Djokovic who battled through an abdominal injury to reach the last eight on Sunday.

“I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals today – that means a lot to me, it’s positive stuff,” said Nadal, who is targeting a record 21st men’s Grand Slam singles crown.

Next up for Nadal is Greece’s world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas, who went through on a walkover after Italy’s Matteo Berrettini pulled out with an abdominal strain.

Not done yet’

The Melbourne tournament remained fan-free for a third day yesterday during a five-day lockdown in Victoria state to curb a coronavirus outbreak.

Women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty declared she’s “not done yet” after storming into the quarter-finals to raise hopes of a first home winner in 43 years.

The Australian’s defensive mastery flummoxed big-hitting Shelby Rogers in her 6-3, 6-4 victory in one hour and 11 minutes in the fourth round.

Barty, who is aiming to become the first Australian champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978, plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals after the Czech beat 18th seed Elise Mertens 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.

The 24-year-old reached the quarter-final of her home Slam for the third straight year, but remained unsatisfied.

“We’re not done yet,” Barty said when asked how she felt about reaching the final eight.

“If we had looked at the way we were preparing during our pre-season, to have the start that we have had so far is really encouraging, but certainly not satisfied with where we’re at the moment.

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“We will keep chipping away and keep trying to do the right things to progress as far as we can.”

Elsewhere, unseeded American Jessica Pegula reached her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final with victory over Elina Svitolina, her first over a top-10 player.

Pegula, whose billionaire father owns the Buffalo Bills NFL team, overcame fifth seed Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a meeting with fellow American Jennifer Brady, a 6-1, 7-5 winner against Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

“I can’t get more confident – it is my best result yet and I’m playing good tennis and today was a hard-fought win,” said Pegula, 26.

“Jen (Brady) is an awesome person. She’s a great person,” Pegula added. “She was texting me, ‘I’m so happy, I’m so proud. This is awesome.’”

Russians are coming

Elsewhere, fourth seed Daniil Medvedev and seventh seed Andrey Rublev both won to ensure an all-Russian quarter-final.

Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up, blew away American world number 192 Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to extend his winning streak to 18 matches.

Rublev, who is also unbeaten this year, went through when Norway’s Casper Ruud retired after losing the first two sets.

The 22-year-old Norwegian had reached the last 16 at a Slam for the first time – emulating his father, Christian, who achieved the same feat at the 1997 Australian Open.

With qualifier Aslan Karatsev already through to face Grigor Dimitrov in the top half of the draw, it means there will be three Russian men in the last eight of a Slam for the first time since the Open era began in 1968.

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