Melbourne | Nadal overcomes Kyrgios to meet Thiem
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The final pair to complete the quarter-final line up are Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem which augurs well for the latter stages of the Australian Open.
He's one of the highest talents we have on our tour and I like the Nick Kyrgios during the whole of this tournament Rafa Nadal
Ironically both had to get past two players who are crowd favourites for their entertaining tennis – Nadal surviving a strong challenge from Nick Kyrgios in an enthralling four setter while Thiem had a comfortable win over the entertaining Gael Monfils.
The Spanish top seed was certainly forced to work hard for his allotted place in the last eight 6-3 3-6 7-6(6) 7-6 (4) as he chases his 20th grand slam title to equal Roger Federer’s record.
In contrast Austrian fifth seed swept past his French challenger 6-2 6-4 6-4.
“What can I say about Nick? When he is playing like today with this positive attitude, he gives a lot of positive things to our sport,” said Nadal who has only won the AO title once, in 2009.
“He’s one of the highest talents we have on our tour and I like the Nick Kyrgios during the whole of this tournament.”
“I just feel happy that I won one more match tonight, an important one,” he concluded.
The anticipated clash between the two had been billed as a ‘grudge’ match following exchanges between them last year.
But whatever bad blood had existed was evidently now in the past with Kyrgios declaring before the match that Nadal was a ‘hell of a player’ and the match itself being played without any incident apart from typical Kyrgios mutterings and racket smashing.
The match itself was close with very little between them as they split the first two sets with Nadal dropping his first of the tournament.
The third was a nip-and-tuck affair with Kyrgios enjoying himself, grinning and applauding Nadal as the pair exchanged some riveting rallies in a high-quality third set but then the Aussie was irritated by a line-judge telling the umpire: “We’re giving 130 percent and he can’t get line calls right. It’s embarrassing!”
The racket was smashed when he fell 1-3 behind in the tie-breaker, and was trown into the crowd for someone to keep as a memento.
Kyrgios pulled back to 5-all and promptly double faulted to hand Nadal a set point only for the Spaniard to return the compliment with his own! Then at 5-5 in the tie-break Kyrgios double faulted, giving Nadal a set point only for the Spaniard to respond by double faulting himself before finally taking the set.
Kyrgios appeared spent and was broken to love for Nadal to take 2-1 fourth-set lead, as the world number one headed for the finish line only to serve another double fault as he served for the match. Another tie-break followed where Nadal finally sealed it.
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Nadal will face a familiar figure when he steps out on court to play for a place in the semis having faced Thiem in two Roland Garros finals these past two years.
Clay of course is Nadal’s favoured surface.
Their meeting could well give some indication as to how far Thiem has progressed despite the fact that he has parted company with his coach, Tomas Muster a few weeks after the partnership had been agreed.
Thiem had won all his five previous matches with Monfils and it was te same on this occasion with the Frenchman unable to find any answers and committing 32 unforced errors.
“I played my best match so far, I had a good feeling,” Thiem said after becoming the first player from Austria to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park since Stefan Koubek in 2002.
“But the score looks much easier than the match was. I always play my best tennis against Gael.”