Rafael Nadal continued his march through the draw at the Australian Open as the top seed kept a perfect record against fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta as he reached a fourth-round place on Saturday.
Nadal carved up his compatriot and Davis Cup teammate 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to extend his win streak against Spaniards to 18 and counting. The world No. 1 finished with 42 winners and 7 unforced errors.
“This was my best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt,” he said, “I’m improving a little bit each day.
“It’s tough to play a good friend, but we Spaniards are professional. We know what we have to do. We try our best and the match goes one way or the other.
“It’s great news that I’m in the fourth round.”
Nadal will next face a dream match for the home audience as he takes on Aussie firecracker Nick Kyrgios, who spent almost four and a half hours to earn a 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(10-8) win over Russian 16th seed Karen Khachanov.
There may be no love lost in the showdown with Nadal.
Nadal has been critical of the Australian’s tantrums and bad behaviour, for his part, Kyrgios has mocked the quirky Spaniard’s on-court mannerisms and serving tics.
“The players who make the Tour bigger are important,” Nadal said. “Wen (Kyrgios) is ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, is one of these
“When he’s doing the other stuff, of course I don’t like.”
Kyrgios has played his previous matches here – at his own request – on the Melbourne Arena ‘peoples’ show court which is free to grounds pass holders who have shown their strong support for the No. 26 from Canberra.
He gave his full house of fans full value after taking a two-sets-to-love lead but failing to close out a win with two match points.
With emotions and form ebbing and flowing, the Australian found himself with a third-match winner nearly two hours after his last chance.
Kyrgios finally clinched it as Khachanov shot wide, with the winner collapsing on his back on court with a fourth-round spot secured.
“Man, this was crazy, I don’t know what to say, it was insane,” the visibly stunned Kyrgios said. “I have no words.
“My legs feel about 40 kilograms each right now.” Kyrgios said he had to find a way after missing on a match point in each of the third and fourth sets.
“Mentally it was not easy, my team and the crowd willed me over the line. This was one of the best wins of my career.”
The match with Khachanov was a re-run of the controversial Cincinnati match of last August when Kyrgios smashed racquets, swore at the chair umpire and copped a record fine in excess of $100,000.
Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem took revenge for a Laver Cup loss with his 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 win over American Taylor Fritz.
Thiem lined up a fourth-rounder against French showman Gael Monfils, who hurt his hand last week playing a video game in his hotel room, but showed full fitness as he dismissed qualifier Ernests Gulbis 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-2.
“I beat a very good opponent today, especially on a hard court,” the two-time Roland Garros finalist form Austria. “That gives me a lot of confidence for
the next round.
“It also proves me that I’m on the right way to raise my level from game to game.
“I feel great with the conditions, but they are changing so much because the weather is so inconsistent here.
“It plays completely different when it’s 35 degrees than when it’s 20 degrees, and it can change within hours.
“This is one of the tournaments where we have to adapt the most.”
No. 7 Alexander Zverev beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
Andry Rublev notched up his 15th straight match win as he took down David Goffin from a set and a break deficit and winning 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(4).
2014 champion Stan Wawrinka advanced when John Isner retired injured, with the Swiss taking a 6-4, 4-1 victory.