While competing with a persistent back injury, Rafael Nadal has advanced into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the 13th time in his career.
Defeating Fabio Fognini in straight sets, the world No.2 looked to be moving a lot more fluidly on court as he wrapped up the match 6-3 6-4 6-2.
Nadal will now face off against Stefanos Tsitsipas, who gained a bye into the quarterfinals after Matteo Berrettini had to withdraw from the tournament due to injury.
OOPS Nadal announcing Berrettini's walkover before it's official 🤷🏻pic.twitter.com/o4DnNTivqY— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) February 15, 2021
“It will be a big challenge and today’s win was good for my confidence,” said Nadal speaking on his upcoming match against Tsitsipas.
“I will need to be ready. My back is holding up and tomorrow’s practise will be important preparation.”Embed from Getty Images
Nadal has slowly been increasing the time he has been spending on the practice courts, with his lower back injury improving over the week.
“If we compare how I was five days ago and how I am [with] today’s situation, it’s different, and my perspective and excitement is completely different too.”
“My physical condition needs to keep improving, but I think [today’s] match helps. I was not able to practise the proper way for the past 19 days, but yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work in practice.“
And the 20-time major champion was clinical in his three-set win over Fabio Fognini, despite the Italian hitting eight more winners and seven Aces past Nadal.
“[The] first set, without a doubt, was my best level in the tournament.”Embed from Getty Images
Nadal didn’t waste any time either, breaking Fognini to go 3-0 up inside 20 minutes of the match.
The Italian has been a formidable opponent for Nadal in the past and once again put up a fight as he bounced back to parry the Spaniard’s belting serves to secure a break of his own.
But Nadal came back to break his opponent once again, taking his game to the next level to close out the opening set.
Fognini struck first in the second set, taking a breakpoint off Nadal to put the Spaniard on the back foot. But once again, Nadal immediately responded to win two breaks against Fognini’s serve to win the second set.
From there the Spaniard took hold of the match, breaking Fognini twice again in the third set to serve out the remainder of the match.Embed from Getty Images
“When you go on court against Fabio you worry,” said Nadal.
“There can always be problems. I was just lucky that when he broke me [in the second set] I responded immediately and held the score. Today was very humid and quicker during the day, which I like, but I have to adapt to every condition.”
He’ll now focus his attention on his next match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, who will be a little more refreshed following his walkover against Berrettini.
Tsitsipas has had a bumpy ride to get to the quarterfinals, defeating both Gilles Simon and Mikael Ymer in straight sets, but was tested by Thanasi Kokkinakis, who forced the Tsitsipas through a gruelling five-set match.
Nadal leads the head-to-head over Tsitsipas going 6-1, with one of those wins coming interestingly in the semifinals of last year’s tournament, where Nadal knocked out the Greek in three sets to advance to the final.
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