The man from Manacor saves four set balls in the longest tie break of his life to get into the quarterfinals
A tie break of 28 minutes and 40 seconds gave Rafael Nadal the first set against Adrian Mannarino. There are sets that have lasted less than that tiebreaker. There are games that have not even lasted 25 minutes. It was the longest tie break of the Spaniard’s career. “The craziest I’ve ever had,” he said after scoring it 16-14 and beating Mannarino (7-6 (14), 6-2, 6-2) to get into the quarterfinals for the fourteenth time. Australian Open.
Without making much noise, Nadal has entered the top eight in Melbourne and is within three victories of the twenty-first Grand Slam. Their squad has opened up with the expulsion of Novak Djokovic and eliminations such as those of Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Zverev and their level shows signs of optimism ahead of the most important matches.
«Before the tournament started I said that I was not a candidate. I had to be realistic knowing where I came from and the circumstances. I added that in sports things change very quickly. What happens today or what it seems, in a few days it may seem something else. I am now in a better position than I was that day before the tournament, without a doubt. That said, I’m not very much into talking about whether or not I consider myself a candidate. Here the game rules, it is the one that is going to dictate, and the physicist, ”said Nadal after passing the Mannarino test.
The Frenchman is one of the most peculiar players on the circuit, with a delicate and unorthodox tennis, which led Nadal to take time to decipher his game. The first set reached the tie break tied, but it was not possible to anticipate what was going to happen next. Mannarino started up 0-3 and 2-4, but was deflated. Nadal rowed to 6-4 and had his first two match points. He didn’t use any. The game stabilized and opportunities followed. One for Mannarino, three for Nadal. All in limbo and 11-11. The Frenchman had three other set points and Nadal, like a locomotive, solved them all until 14-14, where he printed his victory.
It was just the end of the first set, it was just the ending at 28 minutes and 40 seconds of suffering, but it was the sentence. Mannarino no longer recovered from the blow. Nadal won the next two sets by the same 6-2 and closed his pass to the round where he has lost the most times in Australia.
Up to seven times he has yielded in the quarterfinals. One of the most painful last year, when Stefanos Tsitsipas came back two sets against him. Now they will face Denis Shapovalov, who eliminated Zverev by surprise (6-3, 7-6 (5) and 6-3). It will be the fifth official confrontation between the two, with three wins for Nadal and one for Shapovalov. However, the Canadian beat Nadal in the Abu Dhabi exhibition a month ago.
In the women’s draw, Spain was left without representation after Paula Badosa fell clearly against Madison Keys (6-3 and 6-1). The Spanish, champion in Sydney last week, said she was tired against the American, whom she still considered better in the match.