Tennis

Nadal: Time to step on the gas

Top seed enters Australian Open quarter-finals after needing nearly four hours to win his fourth-round match

Rafael Nadal said it's time to step up at the Australian Open after fighting off tenacious Argentinian Diego Schwartzman to reach the quarter-finals yesterday.

Also entering the last eight yesterday were Marin Cilic, Kyle Edmund and third seed Grigor Dimitrov, who defeated Nick Kyrgios in a four-setter.

Nadal, the 2009 winner, was taken to four sets in 3hr 51min before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

The 31-year-old will face sixth seed Cilic tomorrow in his 10th Australian Open quarter-final appearance, equal-second with Stefan Edberg in the professional era.

Federer leads with 14.

"Now we start the second week in the quarter-finals. Now is the moment to make a step forward, to play more aggressive," said the Spanish top seed, who had three cakewalks earlier.

"I know I'm going to have a tough opponent in Cilic. I need to play aggressive and play well. That's what I'm gonna try (do)."

Cilic had beaten 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(2/7), 6-3, 7-6(7/0), 7-6(7/3) in 3hr 27min on Margaret Court Arena in an earlier match yesterday.

The Croat served 20 aces, broke serve six times and made a total of 73 winners to claim his 100th Grand Slam victory.

Nadal had an equally physically exhausting match after coming into the year's opening Grand Slam without an official match following knee concerns.

"It was a good test but, at the same time, I prefer to win in two hours than in four," Nadal said.

"But moments like this helps to be more confident in yourself, in your body."

It was the Spaniard's fourth win over the Argentinian but his toughest after beating him in straight sets in the second round at the 2015 US Open.

"Diego played well and he played aggressive. He did a lot of things well, and I didn't play as aggressive as I did last couple of days," said Nadal, whose win ensured he will remain No.1 when the new rankings are released the day after the tournament ends.

"Of course, I feel little bit tired, but yeah, good. I was able to keep fighting until the end.

"It is the first big match I played in 2018.

"I started later than usual so a match like this probably helps because you know that helps confidence in myself."

KYRGIOS OUT

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's world No. 3 Dimitrov won a gripping four-setter to knock Australia's big hope Nick Kyrgios out of the Australian Open last night.

Dimitrov downed the 17th seed 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) in 3hr 26min and will face Britain's Edmund in tomorrow's quarter-finals.

Dimitrov stepped up his game after a couple of indifferent wins in the earlier rounds to avenge his defeat by Kyrgios in the semi-finals of this month's Brisbane International.

He won all three tie-breakers in a charged night-match atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena with a capacity home crowd willing their player on.

"Playing against Nick is always tricky, two weeks (ago) I lost against him," Dimitrov said.

"He was serving and playing unbelievable and he fought really hard...

"Even when I was serving for the match, I felt that I was not finding my spots very well and I'm just glad I got through that match." - AFP

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