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    Pumped-up Nadal, home hero Barty march into Melbourne quarters

    MELBOURNE (AFP) – Rafael Nadal survived an epic 28-minute tiebreak to seal his spot in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and top seed Ashleigh Barty joined him with victory over giant-killer Amanda Anisimova yesterday.

    Nadal will now face Canada’s 14th seed Denis Shapovalov after he stunned third seed and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev – who said “everything” went wrong.

    Nadal, who is chasing a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, was pushed all the way by Adrian Mannarino in an 81-minute first set before breaking the Frenchman’s resolve in a 7-6 (16/14), 6-2, 6-2 victory.

    “First set was very emotional,” said the 35-year-old Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, who pumped his fists after emerging victorious from a marathon first-set tiebreak on a steamy day in Melbourne.

    “That crazy first set was so important.”

    The Spaniard, who dropped a set for the first time in the tournament before powering past Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the previous round, will now face Shapovalov in the last eight.

    The 22-year-old Shapovalov – who tested positive for COVID when he landed in Australia earlier this month – left Zverev still searching for a first major title after beating him 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

    Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Adrian Mannarino. PHOTO: AP

    The German smashed his racquet and afterwards failed to find any positives.

    “Today, in my opinion, was just awful from my side,” he said.

    Asked what went wrong by reporters, he replied: “Everything.”

    In action later is Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini against Spanish 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

    Flashy Frenchman Gael Monfils warned that “I’m not quite finished yet” after winning a drawn-out battle with unfancied Miomir Kecmanovic to reach his second quarter-final at the Australian Open yesterday.

    The 17th-seeded Monfils carved out a torrid straight-sets win over the 77th-ranked Serb 7-5, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 in two hours and 34 minutes on John Cain Arena.

    Monfils, yet to drop a set in his four wins at the year’s first major, will face either Italy’s seventh seed Matteo Berrettini or 19th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the last eight.

    In the women’s draw, home hope and world number one Barty thrilled the crowd by defeating 60th-ranked Anisimova 6-4, 6-3. The Australian faces another American, Jessica Pegula, in the last eight.

    The 20-year-old Anisimova beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and was fresh from knocking out defending champion Naomi Osaka.

    But she came up against a Barty who looks in irresistible form as she chases her first Australian Open crown.

    Reminded that last year’s Australian Open went behind closed doors mid-tournament because of Covid, Barty told an adoring Rod Laver Arena crowd that playing in front of them was “a lot more fun” than seeing empty seats.

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