Nadal downs Zverev in five-set thriller
A bitterly disappointed Dominika Cibulkova became the latest top seed to crash out of the Australian Open Saturday when she was upset by Russian dark horse Ekaterina Makarova.
The Slovak sixth seed and WTA Finals champion joins third seed Agnieszka Radwanska and fourth-seeded Simona Halep as first-week casualties, blowing the draw wide open.
Makarova, 28, was never going to be a pushover.
Melbourne Park has been her most successful Grand Slam and her marathon 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 win in nearly three hours put her in the fourth round for a seventh consecutive time.
In 2015 she made a memorable run to the semi-finals, losing to Maria Sharapova, who is serving a drugs ban. Rafael Nadal staged a magnificent fightback to beat rising German star Alexander Zverev in a five-set thriller to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion, 11 years older than Zverev, dug deep into his physical reserves to triumph 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2 in four hours and six minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
The Spaniard was staring at defeat after losing the third set in a tiebreaker but showed his trademark fighting qualities to deny the talented 19-year-old.
It was Nadal’s 18th win in 26 five-set matches and set him up for a crack at either French sixth seed Gael Monfils or German 32nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the round of 16.
“I think everybody knows how good Alexander now is, as I say, he is the future of our sport and the present as well. A very tough match for me,” Nadal said.
“I needed to fight for every point, forget about the (tiebreaker) result and that’s what I tried.”
The win put Nadal into his 10th round of 16 at Melbourne Park in his 12th appearance.
Zverev was again desperately unlucky not to get his first win in his second meeting with Nadal.
Nadal saved a match point in overcoming him in the fourth round at Indian Wells last year, winning 15 of the final 16 points.
It was again another gripping evenly-matched clash between the pair with Zverev showcasing his enormous potential.
The German was bidding to join his elder sibling Mischa in the last 16 and make them only the third pair of brothers to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam in the Open Era. ‘Flu-hit Milos Raonic negotiated tricky Frenchman Gilles Simon in four sets to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open on Saturday.
Canada’s world number three, whose chances of making the final from the bottom half of the draw have improved following the shock exit of defending champion Novak Djokovic, beat Simon 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-3.
Raonic, who was beaten by Andy Murray in last year’s semi-finals in Melbourne, will next face Spanish 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who knocked out David Ferrer.
Raonic said he had spent a difficult previous 48 hours with a bug that laid him low.
“I had a rough last 48 hours. But I got my energy up today much more,” he said.
“I had a bad fever. I didn’t come to the stadium yesterday. I just slept pretty much all day. Everything was aching.”
Raonic won the opening two sets before 25th-seeded Simon rallied from a break down in the third to win four straight games and take the set.
The pair exchanged breaks in a tight fourth set before Raonic prevailed.—AFP