Melbourne: Rafael Nadal battled through a huge test to make his 10th Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday as Grigor Dimitrov ousted Nick Kyrgios to join him and Caroline Wozniacki kicked into full gear.
On an overcast and muggy day at Melbourne Park, the Spanish world No. 1 was up against his most dangerous opponent yet in pocket-rocket Diego Schwartzman, one of the smallest men on Tour.
The Argentine 24th seed endeared with his astonishingly powerful groundstrokes before Nadal prevailed 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3 in almost four hours on Rod Laver Arena.
It kept alive his push for a 17th Grand Slam title and also ensured he will remain number one when the new rankings come out after the tournament.
“It was a great battle,” said Nadal, who is chasing his second Melbourne title after beating Roger Federer in the 2009 final.
“Of course, I feel little bit tired, but I was able to keep fighting until the end.”
He will play sixth seed Marin Cilic for a place in the semi-finals after the Croat beat Spanish 10th seed Pablo Correna Busta 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/0), 7-6 (7/3).
The win was Cilic’s 100th at a Grand Slam.
“I have played great tennis from the first round against tough opponents and now I am really looking to the next match, it will be definitely be a big challenge,” he said of the Nadal clash.
Ordinarily Nadal, as the top seed, would have top billing on Rod Laver in the evening, but not with local star Kyrgios in action.
The maturing Australian 22-year-old pushed world number three Dimitrov close in a hugely entertaining four setter before succumbing 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4).
“Playing Nick is always tricky,” said the Bulgarian, as he targets bettering the semi-finals he made last year.
“It was one of those matches you had to take any opportunity that you got.”
His reward is a showdown with Briton Kyle Edmund, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 win over Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
The 26-year-old Dimitrov showed enormous resilience and nerve to subdue a ferocious Kyrgios fightback, claiming victory after three hours and 26 minutes with a majestic forehand pass.
As the combatants embraced, Kyrgios told Dimitrov to “believe” before the defeated 22-year-old left to a standing ovation. A year ago it was jeers after a second-round meltdown.
While Kyrgios’s histrionics are well chronicled, all the talk this past week has been the fact that he appears ready to fulfil his vast potential, especially after a superb victory over his idol Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round three.
World number two Wozniacki turned on the style in her match to take another step towards a maiden Grand Slam title.
The assured Wozniacki, a semi-finalist in 2011 who has never quite lived up to the hype in the majors, annihilated 19th-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-0 in her most impressive performance to date.
“She really mixes up the pace, I just tried to calm down, get my returns in and wait for the opportunities to attack,” she said after crushing the Slovak, who made the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year.
“I think you can tell my confidence is pretty good at the moment.”
Her easy passage sets up a last-eight clash with gritty Spaniard Suarez Navarro, who battled back from a set and 4-1 down to shatter the hopes of 32nd seed Anett Kontaviet.
The Estonian had been bubbling with confidence after despatching French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, but nerves got the better of her.
Catch the match(Fourth round)
Rod Laver Arena
17-Madison Keys (US) v 8-Caroline Garcia (France) Hsieh Su-wei (Taiwan) v 21-Angelique Kerber (Germany) Marton Fucsovics (Hungary) v 2-Roger Federer (Switzerland) Not before 0800 GMT 14-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) v Chung Hyeon (South Korea) 20-Barbora Strycova (Czech Republic) v 6-Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
Margaret Court Arena
Women’s doubles — third round 1-Latisha Chan (Taiwan)/Andrea Sestini Hlavackova (Czech Republic) v 14-Chan Hao-ching (Taiwan)/Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia) 25-Fabio Fognini (Italy) v 19-Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) Women’s doubles — third round Viktorija Golubic (Switzerland)/Nina Stojanovic (Serbia) v 5-Timea Babos (Hungary)/Kristina Mladenovic (France) 1-Simona Halep (Romania) v Naomi Osaka (Japan).