Saturday, March 6, 2021

Nadal closes in on Slams record with emphatic win

Rafael Nadal put his old rival Fabio Fognini to the sword to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals and move within three wins of the all-time Grand Slam titles record on Monday.

The Spanish great was 1-1 with the flamboyant Italian in Grand Slams but he was never seriously troubled in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal is now into his 43rd Grand Slam quarter-final, staying on course for a title match with eight-time winner Novak Djokovic who battled through an abdominal injury to reach the last eight on Sunday.

“I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals today — that means a lot to me, it’s positive stuff,” said Nadal, who is targeting a record 21st men’s Grand Slam singles crown.

Next up for Nadal is Greece’s world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas, who went through on a walkover after Italy’s Matteo Berrettini pulled out with an abdominal strain.

The Melbourne tournament remained fan-free for a third day on Monday during a five-day lockdown in Victoria state to curb a coronavirus outbreak.

As the action continued in front of empty stands, unseeded American Jessica Pegula reached her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final with victory over Elina Svitolina, her first over a top-10 player.

Pegula, whose billionaire father owns the Buffalo Bills NFL team, overcame fifth seed Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a meeting with fellow American Jennifer Brady, a 6-1, 7-5 winner against Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

“I can’t get more confident — it is my best result yet and I’m playing good tennis and today was a hard-fought win,” said Pegula, 26.

“Jen (Brady) is an awesome person. She’s a great person,” Pegula added. “She was texting me, ‘I’m so happy, I’m so proud. This is awesome.'”

– Russians are coming –

Elsewhere, fourth seed Daniil Medvedev and seventh seed Andrey Rublev both won to ensure an all-Russian quarter-final.

Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up, blew away American world number 192 Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to extend his winning streak to 18 matches.

AFP

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