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Nadal roars into Barcelona semi-finals

Rafael Nadal remains on course for a 12th Barcelona Open title after Friday’s 7-5 7-5 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff sent him through to the semi-finals.

The 17-time grand slam champion needed an hour and 43 minutes to power past the German, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in impressive fashion in the last round.

Nadal recaptured some of his imperious best against compatriot David Ferrer after seeing a 30-set winning streak ended by Leonardo Mayer in the first round, and he looked to be cruising towards the last four when he opened up a quick-fire 4-1 lead in the first set.

Struff responded with a break of his own in game eight but a sloppy service game at 5-6 allowed Nadal to claim the set at the first opportunity.

Struff stuck to a bold serve-volley tactic to keep pace in the second, although he was unable to make any inroads into the Nadal service games, the 11-time champion winning 86 per cent of the points when his first serve landed.

After his opponent again opened the door at 5-6 down, Nadal clinched the win with his second match point, unleashing a spectacular forehand passing shot that landed right in the corner after Struff looked to have put a volley beyond his reach.

Nadal will face either Dominic Thiem or Guido Pella in the last four, with a final against Kei Nishikori or Daniil Medvedev awaiting the victor.

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Nadal through to meet Cilic as Dimitrov downs Kyrgios

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.”

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Nadal battles past Schwartzman in Melbourne

Rafael Nadal battled into the Australian Open quarter-finals with a hard-fought victory over a determined Diego Schwartzman on Sunday.

The world number one was below his best but came away a 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 winner on Rod Laver Arena after three hours and 51 minutes.

Nadal slowly built into the fourth-round clash with the diminutive Argentine 24th seed, yet he was perhaps fortunate to win the first set and lacked ruthlessness in the second.

However, the 16-time grand slam champion advanced to the last eight in Melbourne for a 10th time, with Croatian Marin Cilic awaiting him.

But the Spaniard will be eager for improvement heading into the second week, having dropped a set for the first time at this year’s championship.

Schwartzman looked the more likely to break in the first set, but Nadal saved four break points before taking a 5-3 lead.

Just as Nadal appeared ready to take control, he gave up a break advantage three times during the second set.

That proved costly as Schwartzman won the final three points in the tie-break to level the match.

Nadal made fewer errors as the contest wore on, even with Schwartzman’s speed on the baseline forcing him into finer margins.

He took the third set and broke in the third game of the fourth, having saved five break points for 1-1.

Schwartzman continued to fight, but Nadal closed out his victory with another break in the ninth game.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Nadal [1] bt Schwartzman [24] 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 46/52
Schwartzman – 58/68

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 7/4
Schwartzman – 12/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/18
Schwartzman – 3/18

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 68
Schwartzman – 54

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 63/61
Schwartzman – 67/44

TOTAL POINTS
Nadal – 155
Schwartzman – 138

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Burgos no match for sensational Nadal

World number one Rafael Nadal cruised into round two of the Australian Open with a 6-1 6-1 6-1 battering of Victor Estrella Burgos.

Top seed Nadal was back on Rod Laver Arena for the first time since his epic five-set defeat to Roger Federer 12 months ago in a final for the ages.

And the Spaniard, the 2009 champion in Melbourne, made a fine start in his bid to go one better this time around, wrapping up a dominant win in just over an hour and a half.

Nadal wasted no time in seizing control of Monday’s clash at Melbourne Park as Burgos struggled to live with his array of forehands from beyond the baseline.

A string of cross-court winners gave Nadal – dressed in a sleeveless top and shocking pink shorts – a 4-0 lead after 12 minutes.

A sumptuous drop shot brought him the first set after 23 minutes and the Nadal juggernaut continued to steamroll its way past his Dominican opponent.

It was not just the trademark booming forehands that brought Nadal joy, his power enabling him to show exquisite touch around the net as Burgos covered every inch of Rod Laver Arena.

There was brief joy for Burgos as he managed to break Nadal late in the second set, two well-placed backhands followed by a winning volley brought huge celebrations from the world number 79.

Nadal quickly put him back in his place, though, and, after securing a two-set advantage, set about confirming his place in round two.

He unleashed two outrageous forehand winners in the fourth game of the third set that Burgos could get nowhere near, a common theme throughout the encounter.

Burgos ensured he did not suffer a bagel in any set with a gutsy hold but it only delayed Nadal’s progression by a couple of minutes.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Nadal [1] bt Estrella Burgos 6-1 6-1 6-1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 28/17
Estrella Burgos – 10/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 2/1
Estrella Burgos – 1/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 8/12
Estrella Burgos – 1/6

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 73
Estrella Burgos – 66

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 77/67
Estrella Burgos – 48/24

TOTAL POINTS
Nadal – 86
Estrella Burgos – 41

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Nadal will be fine for Australian Open – Moya

World number one Rafael Nadal is confident and ready for the Australian Open amid fitness concerns, according to his coach Carlos Moya.

Despite worries about the Spaniard’s knee, Nadal practiced on Rod Laver Arena Friday.

The 16-time grand slam champion cast doubts over his fitness after withdrawing from the Brisbane International.

However, the 31-year-old will be ready for the year’s first major beginning January 15, unless something changes.

“The two trainings have been very positive after arriving late [Thursday],” Moya told El Espanol.

“We want to make a small adaptation to the weather and also to the court. Starting [Saturday], he will start playing training sets and he will continue to do so in the coming days.

“Rafa is fine, with confidence and playing at a good level. We are optimists.

“We think he will be fine to play the tournament, if nothing gets twisted or changed.”

Champion in Melbourne in 2009, Nadal has also been runner-up three times, including losing a thrilling final to Roger Federer last year.

His fitness is a boost to the Australian Open, with Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori having already withdrawn, along with Serena Williams.

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Nadal to play exhibition event before Australian Open

World number one Rafael Nadal will prepare for the Australian Open by playing at an exhibition event in Melbourne.

The Spaniard withdrew from the Brisbane International and an event in Sydney due to a late start to his preparation, with reports he was still struggling with a knee injury.

However, the 16-time grand slam champion has still been expected to be fit for the year’s first major, which starts at Melbourne Park on January 15.

In a boost to those chances, Nadal will play at the Tie Break Tens at Margaret Court Arena on January 10.

“Tie Break Tens is a great concept and we will see and play some exciting matches,” he said.

“The field is fantastic and I expect some tough competition which will be great for the Aussie fans.”

The event sees each match played as a super tie-break to 10, with the tournament decided in one night.

Novak Djokovic, who is battling an elbow injury that has put his Australian Open campaign in doubt, is also expected to play at the Tie Break Tens if fit.

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Nadal withdraws from Brisbane International

World number one Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Brisbane International, instead opting to head straight to Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.

Nadal, 31, withdrew from the ATP Finals in November due to a right knee injury, which is reportedly still troubling him.

The Spanish superstar announced on Thursday he would miss the ATP 250 event in Brisbane, where he reached the quarter-finals this year.

“I am sorry to announce I will not be coming to Brisbane this year,” Nadal wrote on Twitter.

“My intention was to play but I am still not ready after last year’s long season and the late start of my preparation. I had a great time there and it was a great start to the month I spent in Australia.

“I will be seeing my Aussie fans when I land on the fourth in Melbourne and start there my preparation for the Australian Open.”

If Nadal begins his year at Melbourne Park, it would mark the first time in his career he would have played the Australian Open after not featuring at a lead-up tournament.

A 16-time grand slam champion, Nadal has won the Australian Open once – in 2009 – while he lost an enthralling final against Roger Federer earlier this year.

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Nadal withdraws from ATP Finals after loss to Goffin

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal withdrew from the ATP Finals with a knee injury shortly after he was upset in his opening match by David Goffin on Monday in London.

Nadal, who has been dealing with tendinitis in his right knee, rallied before dropping a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 decision to Goffin.
“I’m not ready to play,” Nadal said after the match. “I fought a lot knowing it was my last match of the season. But my commitment was to try. I’ve missed this event too many times in my career.”
Countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, an alternate, will take the place of Nadal, who admitted prior to the tournament that his knee was “not perfect.” The injury also forced Nadal to withdraw from the Paris Masters earlier this month.
Still, Nadal showed his mettle against the Belgian, saving four match points to push the contest to a decisive third set.
“I don’t know how I picked myself up after losing the four match points,” Goffin said. “I had no regrets and I just wanted to keep going and try to enjoy every point.”
The Spaniard saved eight of 13 break points but Goffin finally put Nadal away with an ace — his 14th of the match — to claim his first victory over a No. 1-ranked opponent.
“It was a tough fight until the end. Rafa is one of the strongest players mentally on the tour,” Goffin said after the two-hour, 36-minute match. “I am so happy to finally find the key to win this match. It is so special to do it here.
The loss and subsequent withdrawal ends a season in which Nadal won the French Open and U.S. Open to boost his career total to 16 Grand Slam titles.
In the day’s other match, sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria also needed three sets before dispatching fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.
Thiem double-faulted twice in the 11th game of the decisive set against Bulgarian, who then closed out the match on his serve. Dimitrov broke Thiem three times.
“It, for me, was just one of those new experiences that I think I’m going to remember for the rest of my life, I think appreciate for the rest of my life,” Dimitrov said. “This is where I always wanted to be at, among the top players, also being able to come through in my first match, it’s only positive.

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Nadal to test knee in London practice sessions

Rafael Nadal expects to be fit for the ATP Finals but will see how his knee reacts to practice sessions before deciding whether he can play in London.

The 16-time grand slam champion pulled out of the Paris Masters ahead of his quarter-final against Filip Krajinovic last week due to injury, putting his participation at the O2 Arena in doubt.

World number one Nadal said there are no guarantees he will feature in the season-ending event, but is hopeful he can attempt to win the tournament for the first time.

“Hopefully the knee is good,” the top seed told Sky Sports. “I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do in order to get ready for London.

“Now it’s the moment to wait and practice at the O2 over the next couple of days. Let’s see if I am able to be 100 per cent to compete.

“If nothing happens, then I will play. I visited my doctors after the Paris Masters – it was a tough day for me having to pull out of Paris. Pulling out of any tournament in the world is tough, but pulling out of the city of Paris is especially tough for me.

“That’s how it is. I went back home and visited the doctors to do some treatment. I expect the treatment to work and be ready for here. I know I’m confident because I’m having a great season with one event to go. I am here to try my best.”

Nadal was on Wednesday drawn to face Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin in Group Pete Sampras.

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Nadal drawn with Thiem, Dimitrov and Goffin in London

World number one Rafael Nadal has been drawn to face Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin in the group stage of the ATP Finals.

Nadal’s participation has been in doubt due to a knee injury which forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters, but the top seed was on Wednesday drawn in Group Pete Sampras for the tournament in London.

The Spaniard has never won the season-ending event and will be eyeing his seventh title of the year at the O2 Arena, fitness permitting.

Second seed Roger Federer leads Group Boris Becker and will face Marin Cilic in a repeat of the Wimbledon final, which the Swiss great won in straight sets back in July.

Federer has won both tournaments he has entered since losing to Juan Martin del Potro at the quarter-final stage of the US Open and will be bidding to win the ATP Finals title for a seventh time.

Third seed Alexander Zverev and Jack Sock – who came from nowhere to secure the final qualification spot by winning the Paris Masters on Sunday – will be up against Federer in the round-robin stage.

ATP Finals draw:

Group Pete Sampras
[1] Rafael Nadal
[4] Dominic Thiem
[6] Grigor Dimitrov
[7] David Goffin

Group Boris Becker
[2] Roger Federer
[3] Alexander Zverev
[5] Marin Cilic
[8] Jack Sock