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"It's obviously an important result for me," said Nadal, who had lost his past three five-set contests in Grand Slam action. "So it's important for me to win a match like this, having been down two sets to one. I'm very happy."
A single break of serve was all that was needed in each of the first two sets. Neither player faced a break point in the third set, ultimately forcing a critical tie-break. Nadal gave the crucial mini-break to Zverev with a forehand error at 5/5, and the German took advantage by hitting a backhand winner on set point to earn a commanding lead.
But Nadal refused to go away. He raced out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set and appeared to finally wear down Zverev with the long baseline rallies that highlighted the match. The young German hit 12 winners to 16 unforced errors in the fourth set while Nadal shored up his game considerably, holding onto the lead to force a deciding set.
The final stages of the match ultimately came down to fitness, with Zverev appearing to cramp at 2-2 in the fifth set. Sensing his opportunity, Nadal sprinted through the final four games of the match to prevail in four hours and five minutes.
“Even now I'm disappointed, but I know that this was a great match. That was a great fight. There are a lot of positives in this match. I think he's probably one of the fittest tennis players in the history of the game,” Zverev said. “There are a few things here and there I could do better. All in one, I think I'm pretty happy with my performance.”
Nadal improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Zverev to 2-0, having last defeated the German at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells in 2016, saving a match point.
"It was a tough match," reflected Nadal. "He's a player that has an amazing potential. He is able to produce great shots. He's already one of the best players in the world. He can be even better. He can be fighting for the most important things. So I think he will do it.
"For the confidence, for lot of things, it is very important to win these kind of matches. I worked a lot during all of December to have the chances to compete well in these kind of moments. Even if I started the match with some nerves, I think I was able to came back well.
"Mentally I have been very positive during the whole match. In terms of physical performance, I felt great, ready for run for every ball. In terms of level of tennis, I think I finished the match playing much better than how I started the match. That's a very important thing."
Nadal goes on to face sixth seed Gael Monfils, who recorded a 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-4 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber in just under two hours. Monfils has dropped only one set in reaching the last 16 and will look to overturn a 2-12 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Nadal when the pair meets on Monday. Monfils’ last victory over Nadal came five years ago in Doha.
Eighth seed Dominic Thiem withstood a determined Benoit Paire on Saturday at the Australian Open, firing 46 winners to prevail 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in their third-round battle and reach the second week in Melbourne for the first time in his career.
“He started to play better. Of course I expected it, because it’s normal that he doesn’t continue like [he did] in the first set,” said Thiem. “It was pretty uncomfortable for me, all his drop shots and he was coming up to the net a lot. He knew how to hurt me. It was pretty lucky for me to win these [last] two sets.”
Next up for Thiem is No. 11 seed David Goffin, who wasted no time defeating No. 20 seed Ivo Karlovic, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. “It was almost a perfect match against a guy like Ivo, who is serving bombs all the time. And every time I was on the ball, it was a great return. So I made some good shots, and I was really solid,” Goffin said. “I'm feeling really good, and I'm really happy to win in three sets. Because to have that kind of score against Ivo, it's not every day that you can break him four times.”
Goffin leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Thiem 4-3, which includes a four-set victory over the Austrian in the third round of last year’s Australian Open. “There are not many secrets,” said Thiem. “We are good friends. We’ve had some very important and good matches in the past. I would say both of us have a good chance to reach the quarters.”
Thiem raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening set as Paire struggled to find the range on his shots. But the flashy Frenchman regrouped in the second set, hanging tough with Thiem and finally securing his first break in the 10th game to level the match at one set each.
The Austrian rebounded as Paire’s first serve percentage dropped drastically in the third set to just 37 per cent. Thiem stepped in on his returns and took control in more of the baseline rallies to grab the third set. The fourth set was a nervy affair from both players featuring seven breaks of serve, but Thiem hung tough and closed out the victory in two hours and 23 minutes.
Meanwhile, Goffin was flawless on Hisense Arena, hitting 28 winners to just five unforced errors. Goffin didn’t face a break point all match and broke the big-serving Karlovic four times to wrap up the win in one hour and 27 minutes.
Third seed Milos Raonic was all smiles after an impressive display saw him defeat 25th seed Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3 in the third round. The Canadian advanced in two hours and 34 minutes, striking 21 aces and breaking serve five times from seven opportunities.
Raonic was especially pleased with his performance, considering he had a fever all day on Friday. “I had a bad fever. I didn't come here yesterday. I just slept pretty much all day. Everything was aching,” he said.
The 26-year-old Raonic made his Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park six years ago, reaching the fourth round as a qualifier. The Toronto native recorded his best run Down Under last year, when he reached the semi-finals (l. to Murray), and would go on to compete in his first major final at Wimbledon (l. to Murray).
“A lot comes from experience and going through a lot of different things over the last few years which you can't sort of cheat or just understand through discussion. I'm just a lot more aware of those things as they happen. I really try to focus on things that are important to me,” Raonic said. “I always try to see, am I the one that is controlling play? Am I behind because I'm not executing or am I behind because I'm letting him be the dictator? That's sort of what I look out for. That was my issue towards the end of that third set and a little gap in the fourth set. But I was able to get that back.”
Next up for Raonic will be No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who prevailed in a brutal all-Spanish battle with No. 21 seed David Ferrer, surviving more than four hours of punishing baseline rallies to advance 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4.
Almost nothing separated the two players, with Bautista Agut winning 172 points in the match to Ferrer’s 161. Bautista Agut continues to excel in Melbourne, having also reached the fourth round here in 2014 and 2016.
Was Roger Federer exploring other career options during his time off?
The Swiss maestro posted a video to his Twitter account of himself, Grigor Dimitrov and Tommy Haas singing “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” the classic ‘80s song from American rock group Chicago. Haas’ father in law, world-renowned musician and record producer David Foster, accompanied them on piano.
“We’re starting a boyband #NOTNSYNC,” tweeted Federer. But since most boy bands usually have five members, it remains to be seen which ATP World Tour players they could add into the mix.Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) January 21, 2017
Nothing looked out of place in Roger Federer’s game during his third-round win on Friday over No. 10 seed Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open in Melbourne, and the same can also be said for his hair.
Taking part in an on-camera interview, Federer had some fun as a loose strand of his hair was adjusted by a producer. “Is it a grey hair?” joked Federer, before it was ripped out at his insistence.
Video courtesy Tennis Australia
Doubles player Colin Fleming has retired from professional tennis after taking up the position of National Coach for Tennis Scotland.
The 32-year-old Fleming spent 10 years competing and won eight ATP World Tour titles from 18 finals. He won the 2010 Commonwealth Games mixed doubles gold medal with Jocelyn Rae. He reached a career-high No. 17 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings on 9 September 2013.
"I am excited to accept the position of National Coach for Tennis Scotland,” said Fleming. “My wife, Gemma, and I are fortunate to now have two amazing young children and I have been looking for the right opportunity to transition into the next stage of my career. This role certainly represents that and it will be a privilege to take on such an important, exciting and challenging position within Scottish tennis.
"With regards to my new role, there has never been a more exciting time for Scottish tennis with Andy Murray, Jamie Murray and Gordon Reid raising the bar with every week that passes. It is my job to put a system in place that ensures the next generation of players are coming through from our clubs to competing on the world stage. My key priorities will be building the base of young quality players as well as ensuring our coaches are well-equipped to develop these players.”
Ross Hutchins, the Chief Player Officer for the ATP, who won three ATP World Tour doubles titles with Fleming, said, “I wish Colin all the success in his move away from playing professional tennis. He had many fantastic tennis achievements and performed extremely well on the biggest stages in our sport. I have no doubt at all that he is an outstanding fit in his new role and will help build something very strong in Scottish tennis.
“Personally, we have built up a very special friendship from playing as a doubles team. He was a joy to be on the same side of the court, and I loved every second of playing together.”
Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea, the sixteenth seeds, defeated all-French duo Julien Benneteau and Jeremy Chardy 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(2) on Friday at the Australian Open. The British/Romanian duo await either top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut or Polish duo Jerzy Janowicz and Marcin Matkowski in the third round.
Fourth seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers did not face a break point as they eased into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Marcos Baghdatis and Gilles Muller. Their third round opponents will be either No. 14 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah or Dusan Lajovic and Viktor Troicki.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, the No. 11 seeds, defeated recent Sydney champions Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop 6-3, 6-4 in 70 minutes. They next face Marc Polmans and Andrew Whittington, who upset eighth seeds Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 0-6, 6-3, 6-4. Polmans and Whittington weren’t the only Aussie duo to oust a seeded team: Alex Bolt and Bradley Mousley topped Rohan Bopanna and Pablo Cuevas, the No. 15 seeds, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
Ninth seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers came from a set deficit to top Robert Lindstedt and Michael Venus 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in two hours and 17 minutes while Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated Matthew Barton and Matthew Ebden 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Roger Federer, the four-time former champion, hit top form on Rod Laver Arena on Friday night as the Swiss superstar received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd in booking his spot in the Australian Open fourth round.
In just his third tour-level match since mid-July 2016, the former World No. 1 blasted past No. 10 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in just 90 minutes. It was their seventh meeting at a major championship (Federer leads 5-2).
“I didn't expect this as such, to be honest, especially not this kind of a scoreline," said Federer. "Especially not having to save any break points, just always rolling on the serve. That was a big surprise to me. I think it was a great mental test for me to see if I could stay in the match – point for point. I was able to do that. That's where I'm just really happy that I was able to deliver that… It's wonderful. I'm really happy of course.”
Federer produced a masterclass in front of fellow all-time great Rod Laver, applying the pressure and keeping Berdych deep behind the baseline and unable to get into the match. After a third break of Berdych’s serve at the start of the second set, Federer seized control. Berdych was powerless in light of Federer’s backhand, first serve (won 39 of 41 points) and net (20 of 23 points) dominance.
Earlier in the day, fifth seed Kei Nishikori lost just eight of his first service points to beat qualifier and World No. 121 Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes. The Japanese star has not lost to a player outside of the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Ranking since the 2013 US Open, when he lost to then No. 179-ranked Daniel Evans in the first round.
“After 5-2 [in the second set] I think he stepped up a little more,” said Nishikori. “He was more attacking my ball [and] playing very solid. But I tried to stay focus. I still had two breaks up. I was serving really well today. I just play with confidence.“For sure it's not going to be easy [facing Federer]. He was playing great tennis today. I watched only a few points. But it's always great to play Roger. It's a big challenge for me. I'm just happy to play him because I think we needed him on the tour. I’m happy to see him back 100 per cent.”
Federer leads Nishikori, his fourth-round opponent, 4-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. He has won four titles at Melbourne Park - in 2004 (d. Marat Safin), 2006 (d. Marcos Baghdatis), 2007 (d. Fernando Gonzalez) and 2010 (d. Andy Murray) and has an 83-13 mark at the championship.
”I'm a big fan of (Kei’s) game," admitted Federer. "He's got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or crosscourt. He's got wonderful second serve returns. He's fast on his legs. Strong in his mind. I know how tough he is as the match goes along. He finds his range and his rhythm, he's tough to stop.”
Fourth seed and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka was pushed to the limit for his place in the second week at the Australian Open in Melbourne. The Swiss star overcame a determined No. 29 seed Viktor Troicki on Friday before prevailing 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(5) in their third-round clash.
”It was not always the best tennis, but I'm happy to have won the match,” said Wawrinka. “That's all that counts. In general, I had good momentum [and] in the second, third and fourth set, I was playing better. But [it was] tough conditions, quite windy, not easy to really play well or have good rhythm. I'm really happy just to get through.”
The normally steady Wawrinka lost the timing on his shots while up 3-1 in the first set, dropping serve three consecutive times as he lost five games in a row. Troicki played conservatively by hitting just seven winners and seven unforced errors to grab the opening set.
But rather than get rattled, the Swiss star regrouped. He cleaned up his game considerably in the second and third sets, hitting a combined 21 winners to 11 unforced errors while breaking his opponent four times. Meanwhile, it was Troicki who struggled to find his footing in the middle stages of the match, hitting nine winners to 18 unforced errors.
It appeared that Wawrinka would comfortably close out the contest, but the Serbian showed his fighting spirit in the fourth set by thwarting his opponent’s attempts to serve out the match at 5-3 and 6-5. Wawrinka was unable to make good on a 5/2 lead in the tie-break or a match point at 6/5, but dug deep to erase Troicki’s set point chance at 6/7. A pair of backhand errors from Troicki ultimately gave Wawrinka a hard-fought victory in two hours and 32 minutes.
Next up for the former titlist is Andreas Seppi, who continued his dream run in Melbourne with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(1), 7-6(2) victory over Belgium's Steve Darcis. The 32-year-old Italian continues to excel in Melbourne, having reached the fourth round in 2013 and 2015, but the No. 85 in the Emirates ATP Rankings now seeks a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.
Wawrinka leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 8-3 and has won their past three matches, but they haven’t faced off since the 2014 BNP Paribas Open.
”It’s going to be an interesting match,” said Wawrinka. “He has been playing really well this tournament. We‘ve play each other a few times. I know it will depend on the way I'm going to play, the way I'm going to be on the court. But it's going to be a good match.”