Rafael Nadal continued his bid to complete a second career slam after a four set win over the colourful Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, to enter the quarter final at Flinder’s Park in Melbourne on Monday. He next plays Milos Raonic of Canada who also needed four sets to prevail over another Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in a roller-coaster of a match, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on the Hisense Arena.
Nadal, the 2009 champion, broke in the second game of the opening set and held his own serve for the rest of the first set which he claimed 6-3. He only dropped serve once in the second set and converted on 3 out of 5 break chances to claim the set 6-3. Monfils converted on the only break point chance in the third set while Nadal wasted all four break point chances to drop the set 4-6. He regained control over the match which lasted 2 hours 55 minutes. While Monfils had 15 aces to only to two by Nadal, the sixth seeded Monfils did not help his cause as he had 64 unforced errors.
The third seeded Raonic fell 1-5 down in the first set tie-break but rallied to win 5 points in a row before claiming it on his second set point at 8-6 with a backhand winner. Agut, the no. 13 seed, who won the ATP event in Chennai at the beginning of the year came back strong to clinch the second set 6-3. Raonic, a semi finalist last year served up 33 aces and from 4-4 all in the third set, won eight out of the next nine games to seal the match in two hours fifty one minutes.
Raonic had begun the match in imperious fashion, belting winners at will and jumping to a 3-0 lead. He had chances to make it 4-0, but Agut held on and as Raonic’s level dipped, the Spaniard almost threatened to take the first set, only for Raonic to clinch it. Raonic lead by a break, early on in the second set, but Agut made another spirited comeback – this time making sure he got the set.
The third set was tightly contested till the ninth game, where the Spaniard had break point opportunities, only for the Canadian to deny them. Having done so, the 2016 Wimbledon finalist broke Agut’s serve to grab the 3rd set and continued his momentum to put together a string of games that ultimately gave him the fourth set and the match.
Eleventh seeded David Goffin of Belgium caused another minor upset with a four set win with a scoreline of 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2 over the eighth seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem in two hours and forty three minutes on the Rod Laver Arena. Goffin, had 29 unforced errors, while Thiem had 58 unforced errors.
The big-hitting Austrian went toe-to-toe with the Belgian dynamo for the first two sets, but once Goffin sneaked out the second set in a tie-break, the wheels seemed to come-off the Austrian’s game, strangely. To his credit, Goffin saw his opportunity and never let-up to end the match in commanding fashion.
Goffin, now goes on to play the 15th seeded Grigor Dmitrov who recovered from a slow start to win 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-1 against Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, the man who had caused the biggest upset in the history of the Open in the second round with his upset of six time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
The Uzbek, who had backed up his big win by taking out Andreas Seppi in another 5 set struggle, started the match in commanding style, breaking the Bulgarian’s serve on two occasions to clinch the first set 6-2, but Dimitrov played some smart tennis to stay on par with Istomin in the second set, before playing an inspired tie-break to level the match. The two marathon matches in the prior rounds, finally seemed to catch up with Istomin, as he meekly surrendered in the next 2 sets.
The following is the quarter final line up with my pick mentioned first:-
Roger Federer (17) v. Mischa Zverev (-);
Stanislas Wawrinka (4) v. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (12) ;
Milos Raonic (3) v. Rafael Nadal (9)
David Goffin (11) v. Grigor Dmitrov (15)
Serena Williams now looks set to claim her 23rd major title with a 7-5, 6-4 win over the 16th seeded Barbora Strycova. She next faces the ninth seeded Briton Johanna Konta, who had a comprehensive 6-1, 6-4 win over the Russian Ekaterina Makarova, the number 30th seed. Fifth seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over the hometown favourite Daria Gavrilova, seeded 22nd. The 34 year unseeded Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her Cinderella run with a 6-4, 6-2 win over the American Jennifer Brady.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]