Rafael Nadal tamed the challenge of Nick Kyrgios to send the last home hope out in a needle match at Melbourne Park on Monday to start the second week at the Australian Open.
The Spaniard overcame a few stumbles to score a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) win against an opponent whom has been sniping war with the world No. 1 for months.
Nadal now owns an 8-2 record against Australian opposition here, with both of his defeats coming against Lleyton Hewitt.
Nadal dropped the second set with a double-fault and was broken in the fourth set while serving to reach the quarter-finals.
Kyrgios rallied; but the Aussie was unable to maintain in a struggle which lasted for almost three and three-quarter hours, sending a return low into the net.
“It was tough match, you are never in control against Nick,” Nadal said. “After I lost the second set, I had to recover mentally and raise my level.”
Kyrgios has criticised Nadal’s habitual slow play and his serving tics, while Nafal has not been impressed by the longtime bad boy antics of Kyrgios, currently playing under threat of probation by the ATP if he does not toe the line.
The Spaniard held out an olive branch to Kyrgios: “Nick is one of the highest talents we have, when he plays with a positive attitude it brings good things for our sport.
“I liked the Nick Kyrgios of this tournament.”
Basketball-mad Kyrgios came out in an emotional cloud after the helicopter death of hoops legend Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles overnight.
Tournament officials gave him special compensation to wear a Lakers jersey during the match warmup, which he then changed for his regular kit.
Kyrgios, the strongest hope for Australia, gave a good account of himself in the heated match-up but was unable to keep up the required intensity against the steady Spaniard.
After dropping the opening set, the Australian lifted the second. The third stayed tight, with Nadal distracted enough by crowd noise to double-fault away a set point.
Nadal finished it off to set up a quarter-final with Dominic Thiem, a replay of the last two Roland Garros finals.
Fifth seed Thiem dismantled Gael Monfils as the Austrian blew out the flamboyant French showman and 10th seed 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in just under two hours.
Thiem ended with 31 winners and broke on four of 14 chances while never facing on on his own serve.
Thiem, losing finalist to Nadal at the last two Roland Garros editions, now stand 6-0 in the series.
“Today in the warmup, I had a great feeling for the strokes. With early breaks in three sets, almost everything went in my direction,” Thiem said.
“I played a very, very good match today from the beginning to the end,
“I’m lucky that I’m still unbeaten against Gael, most of our last matches wer in the later stages of tournaments and I’ve always played my best tennis against him.
Thiem is the first Austrian to get this far in Melbourne since Stefan Koubek in 2002; Monfils continued a poor showing with just one Aussie quarter-final to his name.
He finished off a quick afternoon as Monfils hit the net with a forehand on the second of three match points.
2014 winner Stan Wawrinka outlasted fourth seed Daniil Medvedev, in a comeback from two sets to one down, winning 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2.
US Open finalist Medvedev had won seven of eight matches so far this season, with an ATP Cup loss to Novak Djokovic his lone setback coming in.
The Swiss 15th seed, who hit 71 winners, will play his fifth quarter-final here against Alexander Zverev, who ended the 15-match win streak of Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.