Saturday 23 September 2017

Nadal stays on course for dream Federer final

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating France’s Gael Monfils. Image: AP Photo/Andy Brownbill
Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating France’s Gael Monfils. Image: AP Photo/Andy Brownbill

Charlie Eccleshare

Rafael Nadal kept alive the prospect of a fairy-tale Australian Open final against Roger Federer with a four-set victory over Gael Monfils.

The Spaniard reached his first grand slam quarter-final in more than 18 months with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over the sixth-seeded Frenchman. He now plays No 3 seed Milos Raonic.

Nadal's resurgence, coupled with Federer's smooth progress, means there is the tantalising prospect of the first major final between the two great rivals since 2011.

Reflecting on the win, which took just under three hours, Nadal said: "It means a lot - after a couple of years without being in this round, this is great news.

Control

"I'm very happy with an important victory against a very good opponent. When you lost the third (set), you are down in the fourth, you are not under control, no. That's the real thing.

"Sometimes it's tough to play against Gael - you don't know what he's going to do."

Nadal had looked to be cruising to a straight-sets victory at a packed Rod Laver Arena, but he tightened up in the third set to allow his mercurial opponent back into the match. And when Monfils broke in the fourth set to lead 4-2, the raucous crowd were preparing themselves for a decider, especially as Nadal's forehand was starting to misfire.

Nadal, though, steeled himself and, thanks to some strong serving and solid hitting on the backhand side, reeled off the next four games to ensure he won the match in four sets and conserved energy for the tougher tests ahead.

"I feel a little bit tired. But probably tomorrow I will be a bit better, and hopefully after tomorrow perfect," Nadal said.

"Against Raonic I just need to play very, very well. He is the third ranked player in the world, he beat me a couple of weeks ago in Brisbane and is a top player with an amazing serve.

"I need to be very focused with my serve and play aggressive. If I am not playing aggressive, then I am dead."

Meanwhile, Serena Williams insists she has nothing to lose when she takes on Britain's Johanna Konta.

Williams will be walking out for her 47th grand slam quarter-final while Konta is playing only her second, and the veteran American is also gunning for an Open era record 23rd major title in Melbourne.

One more triumph would pull Williams clear of Steffi Graf and one short of Margaret Court in the all-time list.

It would also see her reclaim the world No 1 ranking after the current incumbent Angelique Kerber was beaten in the fourth round by Coco Vandeweghe on Sunday.

Williams moved one step closer with a 7-5 6-4 victory over 16th seed Barbora Strycova and now faces Konta, the in-form British No 1, for a place in the last four.

"I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament," Williams said. "Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I'm here to win, hopefully I can play better, I can only go better." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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