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Aus Open PICS: Nadal, Tsitsipas cruise into 4th round

Last updated on: February 13, 2021 22:27 IST
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Images from Saturday's action at the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal serves in his third round match against Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Second seed Rafael Nadal overcame some stiff early resistance from Britain's Cameron Norrie before easing into the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 victory on Saturday.

After being heckled by a loud-mouthed fan in his previous round win against Michael Mmoh, Nadal enjoyed an incident-free evening in an empty Rod Laver Arena to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 49th time in his career.

 


The 34-year-old Nadal, bidding to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title, will face Italian Fabio Fognini next.

Nadal won the opening six points, but 69th-ranked Norrie was not intimidated in his first meeting with the Spaniard and claimed the first break of the match to lead 3-2.

He was immediately broken to love though and folded at 5-6 to drop serve again and hand Nadal the first set in 48 minutes.

Thereafter it was a routine day at the office for Nadal, who dominated without ever needing to find top gear, showing no sign of the lower back injury that dogged him in the warmup.

"All the matches are tough, he came here winning a couple of very good matches. I didn't convert the opportunities I had early in each set so the situation became a bit more difficult," Nadal, who is yet to drop a set, said.

"I'm happy, I had a few good feelings, of course I have to keep improving and tomorrow is another day to practice but into the second week and that's the main thing for me."

Nadal's only title in Melbourne was in 2009 but with eight-time champion Nova Djokovic suffering an injury in his third-round win over Taylor Fritz the Mallorcan might not ever have a better chance to double his tally.

He was not at his dazzling best against Norrie in a eerily flat atmosphere, a result of Melbourne's five-day COVID lockdown forcing organisers to close the doors to fans.

But it was enough to post a 16th successive win against a fellow left-hander - a run stretching back to 2017.

A bigger test awaits on Monday when Fognini, who dispatched Australian Alex de Minaur in straight sets on Saturday.

"We've played a lot of times and he has beaten me before," Nadal said. "He will be hungry to play well and has had a very impressive win today so he will come with plenty of confidence."

"You don't expect an easy round in the round of 16 so it will be tough and I have to be ready for it."

Tsitsipas strolls into fourth round with easy win over Ymer

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas plays a backhand during his men's singles third round match against Sweden's Mikael Ymer

IMAGE: Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas plays a backhand during his men's singles third round match against Sweden's Mikael Ymer at the Australian Open on Saturday. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images

Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas put in a dominant performance to thrash Swede Mikael Ymer 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 and canter into the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

The 22-year-olds were hitting partners during their mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving Down Under. Conditions were not much different on Saturday, with no spectators allowed due to the five-day lockdown in Melbourne.

"Clean game. I think I kept things simple, didn't complicate whatever tactics or whatever use of my game I wanted to execute today," Tsitsipas told reporters.

After a closely contested opening set when Tsitsipas could manage only a single break of the 95th-ranked Ymer's serve, the Greek raised his level to turn the match into a one-sided affair at John Cain Arena.

Ymer did not help his own cause with 36 unforced errors in the match but he managed to hit 14 winners, most from his heavy forehand.

In reply, Tsitsipas stayed clinical, hit 27 winners and kept his unforced errors to 20 while winning 78% points on his first serve. He broke Ymer's serve twice in the second set and four times in the third, while suffering just a single break on his own serve.

"I'd say I entered a little bit stressed in the match," the Greek said.

"I don't know why, for which reasons, but over time I got used to the conditions, to the big court, and I think I managed to sustain my level and even raise my level once I got a few breaks ahead.

"That gave me a lot of confidence, and I felt like I was on top of my game at that point."

Tsitsipas, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2019, will next meet the winner of the match between Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini and Russian Karen Khachanov, who is seeded 19th.

Medvedev wins five-setter to join Russian charge

Russia's Daniil Medvedev celebrates victory as he sits down following his third round match against Serbia's Filip Krajinovic.

IMAGE: Russia's Daniil Medvedev celebrates victory as he sits down following his third round match against Serbia's Filip Krajinovic. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Daniil Medvedev was forced to dig deep to fight off a charging Filip Krajinovic on Saturday but came through 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0 to extend his winning streak to 17 matches and join the Russian charge into the fourth round.

The frustrated fourth seed forced his coach Gilles Cervara from the otherwise empty stands at Rod Laver Arena with a couple of verbal volleys after dropping his first set of the tournament and going a break down in the fourth.

Krajinovic, who spent his pre-tournament quarantine practising with world number one Novak Djokovic, found success preying on Medvedev's forehand and rode the momentum to send the contest into a fifth set.

A second trip to the toilets did the trick for Medvedev, however, and he broke the Serbian for 2-0 in the decider with a crunching forehand winner before sealing a last-16 date with American Mackenzie McDonald.

The 25-year-old, who had lost his six previous five-setters, joined compatriot Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round after the qualifier manufactured a stunning straight sets upset of Diego Schwartzman on Friday.

With seventh seed Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov also in action on Saturday, Russia could end up with an open era record four men in the last 16 of a Grand Slam.

Pliskova stunned by Czech compatriot Muchova

The Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova hugs compatriot Karolina Pliskova at the net following victory in their women's singles third round match on Saturday.

IMAGE: The Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova, left, hugs compatriot Karolina Pliskova at the net following victory in their women's singles third round match at the Australian Open on Saturday. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Karolina Pliskova said she never got into her comfort zone on Saturday as the sixth seed exited the Australian Open following a 7-5, 7-5 third-round defeat by Czech compatriot Karolina Muchova at Rod Laver Arena.

Pliskova’s frustrations boiled over in the first set as she received a code violation for racket abuse and was then handed a point deduction for smashing another racket in the tunnel between sets.

Pliskova told a news conference she had been a little bit surprised at the second warning but that it had had a positive impact on her game.

“I think actually it helped me in the second set because I was (annoyed) so I started to play well,” she said.

Karolina Muchova celebrates after winning a point against Karolina Pliskova.

IMAGE: Karolina Muchova celebrates after winning a point against Karolina Pliskova. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

After losing the opening set Pliskova raced to a 5-0 lead in the second before the wheels came off, allowing Muchova to complete the victory and reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time.

“There was long game for 5-1 and 6-0. I thought she just played little bit better at this moment,” Pliskova added. “Of course, I played quite amazing to 5-0, but then it’s quite tough to hold this level.

“I had chances ... on my serve, I just could do so many things better today. I don’t think my game is the top for sure. I don’t want to be too sarcastic and too negative because I just lost.

“The feeling was not great from any of my matches here. I think overall, too many mistakes, too much panic in the rallies. I don’t know if it’s just not having any matches much lately. I don’t feel like safe with anything I was doing on the court.”

Muchova, the world number 27, next faces either Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic or Elise Mertens of Belgium for a place in the quarter-finals.

Barty overcomes Alexandrova scare

Australia's Ashleigh Barty plays a forehand during her third round match against Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova

IMAGE: Australia's Ashleigh Barty plays a forehand during her third round match against Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova. Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

World number one Ash Barty overcame a stumbling start to reach the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova at an empty Margaret Court Arena.

The top seeded Australian was broken in her first service game but quickly rallied to take the first set when the Russian slapped the ball into the net for her 16th unforced error.

Showing no signs of being hampered by her heavily strapped left thigh, Barty battled back after being broken again in the second set and secured the victory with a fifth and final break of serve.

The 2019 French Open champion, who is looking to become the first homegrown Australian Open singles champion since 1978, will play American Shelby Rogers for a place in the quarter-finals.

Fognini tames De Minaur to set up Nadal clash

Fabio Fogini

IMAGE: Italy's Fabio Fognini in action during his third round match against Australia's Alex de Minaur. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini put in a clinical performance to stroll past Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 into the fourth round of the Australian Open, ending the host nation's challenge in the men's singles draw.

Two days after saving a match point to beat compatriot Salvatore Caruso in five sets, the 33-year-old Fognini raised his level a notch in his first meeting against the 21st seed De Minaur, the highest-ranked men's player in Australia.

With Victoria entering a five-day lockdown from Saturday to contain the spread of COVID-19, there were no home fans present at the Margaret Court Arena to bolster De Minaur's spirits or his performance as Fognini proved too strong.

"I knew since the beginning that it was going to be a really tough match," Fognini said in his on-court interview. "Tonight it was better for me without a crowd, of course. He is Australian, it was tough."

"He is really young. I am almost 34, so for sure he is a really good player, already top-20. He has everything to improve."

Fognini, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on both ankles last year, crunched one winner after another from his double-handed backhand and aggregated 25 in all compared with 13 for his opponent.

A few errors crept into his game towards the end when De Minaur saved two match points to win a break back, but the Italian was not to be denied on the third and he sealed the contest with a strong serve.

"I played a really solid match," Fognini added. "I got a bit tired at the end of the match, but I think it is normal. I need these kind of matches."

Fognini broke De Minaur's serve five times across the three sets while conceding two breaks on his own.

Next up for the Italian will be 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal, who eased past Britain's Cameron Norrie with a 7-5 6-2 7-5 victory in Saturday's other late match.

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