Rafael Nadal survives 'crazy' tiebreak to move into Australian Open quarter-finals

Spanish sixth seed to face Shapovalov in last-eight after the Canadian thrashes Zverev

Rafael Nadal plays a forehand to Adrian Mannarino during their Australian Open fourth round match. Getty Images
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Rafael Nadal booked his place in the Australian Open quarter-finals with a straight sets win over Adrian Mannarino on Sunday, but only coming through an epic 28-minute opening-set tiebreak.

Shortly after the 20-time Grand Slam champion advanced, third seed Alexander Zverev was emphatically defeated by Canada's Denis Shapovalov as the German's wait for a first major title goes on.

Nadal, seeded sixth, needed all of his experience and resolve to claim a 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory inside a baking hot Rod Laver Arena. It is the 35-year-old Spanish great's 14th quarter-final in his 17th visit to Melbourne.

"I was a little bit lucky at the end of the tiebreaker, I had my chances but then he had a lot of chances too," Nadal said. "That crazy first set was so important and the service break at the beginning of the second set too.

"He had been playing some fantastic tennis during the whole tournament, winning against amazing players, and today the first set was super difficult.

"His ball was very difficult to control, very flat, very fast and I am very happy that I survived that."

Nadal is chasing a men's record 21st Grand Slam title and coming off a curtailed 2021 season caused by a chronic foot injury followed by a bout of Covid-19 in December.

The story of the match was the extraordinary opening-set tiebreak, where Nadal held seven set points and Frenchman Mannarino four. It proved an epic in the boiling heat, before Nadal prevailed 16-14 after winning a furious rally.

The 69th-ranked Mannarino appeared to injure himself in chasing down a drop shot during the tiebreak and needed treatment courtside. The effort of the draining opening set told on Mannarino, who lost his opening service game of the second set and followed up with another in the fifth game.

The outcome was inevitable with Nadal fully in command and getting the job done.

Mannarino was also coming off a 4hr 38min struggle to get past 18th seed Aslan Karatsev in the previous round which finished in the early hours of Saturday. He battled on but Nadal gained ascendancy to work his way to victory to remain unbeaten after seven matches this season.

Denis Shapovalov dominated Alexander Zverev to progress to the Australian Open quarter-finals. Getty Images

Nadal next faces 14th seed Shapovalov, who dominated Zverev 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 to reach his first Australian Open quarter-final.

The 22-year-old Canadian was magnificent against the German third seed, earning one of his biggest career victories at Margaret Court Arena.

Shapovalov blew a match point with a wild forehand into the tramlines but wrapped up the match when Zverev netted under pressure.

"It's always an honour to play someone like Rafa," said Shapovalov, who recently played, and beat, the Spaniard at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last month.

"Always fun, always going to be battle, it's going to be tough."

Monfils 'not finished yet'

Gael Monfils reached his second Australian Open quarter-final after beating Miomir Kecmanovic. Getty Images

Gael Monfils warned he's "not quite finished yet" after winning a drawn-out battle with Miomir Kecmanovic to reach his second quarter-final at the Australian Open.

The 17th-seeded Monfils carved out a torrid straight-sets win over the 77th-ranked Serb 7-5, 7-6, 6-3 in 2hr 34min on John Cain Arena.

Monfils, yet to drop a set in his four wins at the year's first major, will face either Italy's seventh seed Matteo Berrettini or 19th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the last eight.

It is the 35-year-old Frenchman's first quarter-final appearance in Melbourne since 2016 when he lost to Canada's Milos Raonic.

"It was really tough. He passed me on both sides. I tried to be very aggressive," Monfils said. "I tried not to let him dictate the points and that went well. It was just a battle."

Monfils does not intend to go home any time soon.

"I want to do better and I will try to play this quarter-final not like the last time ... I'm not quite finished yet."

Kecmanovic's winning run is over after he was initially drawn to play compatriot and world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round.

After the defending champion was deported, Kecmanovic found himself instead facing lucky loser Salvatore Caruso.

He went on to win three matches to get through to the last 16 and come away with $A300,000 (US$215,000) in prize money and 180 ranking points.

Updated: January 23, 2022, 11:19 AM