Fourteen-time major winner Rafael Nadal looked on course for a routine win but was made to work hard in his 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4 success over Gael Monfils in the fourth round.
Only Fabio Fognini (2015 US Open) has come from two sets down to beat Rafa at a grand slam. But when Monfils poached the third set and went a break up in the fourth, the comeback looked well and truly on.
Nadal regrouped and held Monfils at bay by winning the last four games in a row. The Spanish clay-court legend sets up a quarterfinal meeting with the highest remaining seed, Milos Raonic, who took care of business after the roof was closed in the middle of the third set in his match with Roberto Bautista Agut. The Canadian finished with 75 winners in a four-set victory.
They met as recently as two weeks ago with Raonic a three-set winner, but Nadal leads 6-2 overall. Rafa’s defeat of Monfils kept alive the hopes of a dream final showdown against Roger Federer.
With Angelique Kerber out, Serena Williams can regain the No.1 ranking by winning the title for a seventh time at Melbourne Park. And she went one step closer on Monday after a tough win over Barbora Strycova, 7-5 6-4.
Williams still hasn’t dropped a set in the tournament but this was easily her sternest test so far.
Neither player could hold serve in the first four games but the quality improved towards the end of the set as Strycova dug deep, throwing in some gutsy serve-and-volley play on set points down. The Czech saved seven set points in all but Serena got lucky on the eighth as a backhand winner deflected off the tape.
The crucial moment of set two came when Williams hit two giant forehand winners to break for 3-1. The American struggled to get her first serve in all day and failed to serve the match at 5-3 but broke in the ensuing game.
She’ll next take on Brit Johanna Konta, who reeled off five games in a row from 1-4 down in the second set to dispatch Ekaterina Makarova 6-1 6-4 in just over an hour.
— Live Tennis (@livetennis) January 23, 2017
David Goffin became to first Belgian man to make the last eight at the Open after a 5-7 7-6 6-2 6-2 win over eighth seed Dominic Thiem.
The Austrian took the opening set by breaking in game 11 before serving out to love.
Some huge clutch serving saw Thiem save four set points when serving at 4-5 in the second but Goffin finally took his chance to level the match by winning the breaker.
Thiem appeared fatigued and tired away thereafter as the mercury tipped 37°C in Melbourne. Goffin joked after the match that he was ready for another five sets.
Fifth seed Karolina Pliskova ended the run of Daria Gavrilova, the last Aussie in the singles draw, dominating with her big serve to win 6-3 6-3.
She’ll next face Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who is 34 but made the 1999 Wimbledon semifinals as a teenager. Her burgeoning career was derailed because of an abusive father and she left the sport completely from 2004 to 2009.
An inspirational Lucic-Baroni told the crowd after her win: “F— everything and everybody who ever tells you, you can’t do it.”
Men’s quarterfinal lineup
Mischa Zverev v Roger Federer
Stanislas Wawrinka v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Rafael Nadal v Milos Raonic
David Goffin v Grigor Dimitrov
Women’s quarterfinal lineup
Coco Vandeweghe v Garbine Muguruza
Venus Williams v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Karolina Pliskova v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
Serena Williams v Johanna Konta