The first two men’s quarter-finals were finalised at the Australian Open on Sunday as Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov remained on a last-four collision course.
Top seed Nadal, last year’s runner-up at Melbourne Park, was below his best in battling past Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 and will meet Marin Cilic, who came from a set down to see off Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-0) 7-6 (7-3).
In the absence of Andy Murray, it was a landmark day for another Brit as Kyle Edmund broke new ground in reaching his first grand slam quarter-final, defeating Andreas Seppi 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-2 6-3.
His opponent in the last eight will be Dimitrov, who ensured the wait for a home male champion at this event will extend into 43rd year with a four-set win over Nick Kyrgios.
NADAL KEEPS HIS COOL
The Spaniard toiled at times against Schwartzman and revealed afterwards that the humid conditions on Rod Laver Arena posed a tough challenge.
“Everybody suffers in a four-hour match,” he said. “It was tough conditions out there with a lot of humidity. Sometimes – I said the other day – sometimes it’s tougher for the body. You know, less hot but more humidity. Today was that case.
“It was a good test and, at the same time, I said before, I prefer to win in two hours than in four. But being honest, too, moments like this helps to be more confident in yourself, in your body.”
DIMITROV ‘FRUSTRATED’ BY UNPREDICTABLE KYRGIOS
After Nadal and Schwartzman departed Rod Laver Arena, Dimitrov and Kyrgios were next up and the pair did not disappoint.
The Bulgarian advanced 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) at the end of four tension-filled sets, and afterwards expressed his exasperation at facing someone of Kyrgios’ maverick ability.
“Frustrating!” Dimitrov said. “Simple as that. You’ve always got to be alert, he served a couple of second serves over 200 [kph] today, I mean what can you do, give me a tip!
“He was serving unbelievable, he deserves a lot of credit here, he fought really hard. Even when I was serving for the match I felt it was not over, he was playing very well.”
“What can I say? Playing against Nick [#Kyrgios] is always tricky. He deserves a lot of credit. He fought really hard.”
WHO NEEDS ANDY MURRAY?
Edmund came from behind to defeat Seppi to record his best effort at a major – surpassing a fourth-round appearance at the US Open in 2016. And the Brit sees no reason why he can’t go all the way.
“You have to believe it. I mean, that’s why I’m in the quarter-finals, because every time I step on the court and I’m playing, I believe I’m going to win,” he said. “So it’s no different now.
“I take it one step at a time. Whoever I’m playing on Tuesday, I have to believe I’m going to win and believe in my game. That’s the way I have approached it, one match at a time, and I continue to do that.”
CILIC ‘UP AND DOWN’…BUT THROUGH
It was far from plain sailing for Cilic, who threw away a 5-2 lead in the opening set to find himself behind, but displayed his mental fortitude to level and then break Carreno Busta at 6-5 down in the third to force a tie-break.
“I should have won the first. I should have lost the third. I should have won quicker in the fourth. So it was up and down a lot. It was difficult match,” said Cilic.
“I’m very pleased. I felt that I played all four matches on a good quality. Today, if looking at some small details, I was a little bit up and down on some service games, and he was returning quite good. But overall I’m feeling good with the game. I’m hitting the ball really nicely, taking chances, playing aggressive, taking the ball as early as I can.”