Melbourne - World number one Rafael Nadal fought off a spirited challenge from
Japan's Kei Nishikori to win through to the quarter-finals of the
Australian Open on Monday.
The Spaniard won 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) in three hours 17 minutes and will play Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov in the last eight.
under new coach Michael Chang, pressed Nadal all the way and had his
chances to take sets off the top seed only to fall down on forehand
Nadal was angered when he was called for a time violation
by chair umpire Eva Asderaki at deuce while 4-4 at a critical time in
the third set, but he regathered his composure to win the match in his
The 13-time Grand Slam champion's renowned
fighting qualities came to the fore when he won the big points for his
sixth win over Nishikori.
"He's a fantastic player and Kei is able
to hit the ball very early and the ball was coming back very quick,"
said Nadal, who is now on a nine-match winning streak.
difficult for me to take position inside the court and I was close to
losing every set so I congratulate Kei and I feel he will have a great
"He is always very quick around the court, but today with
his backhand today he was able to take the ball quicker and that's why I
was struggling for my position on the court."
Nadal broke Nishikori's opening service but that was only a precursor to a tremendous opening set by the Japanese star.
broke the world number one's serve for the first time in the tournament
and more than matched Nadal with his shot-making and speed around the
The set went to a tiebreaker but Nadal wrapped it up on his second set point in one hour and five minutes.
Nishikori again broke the struggling top seed who missed with a forehand in the fifth game of the second set.
Nadal got the break back in the eighth before there was a delay as he
sought a replacement shoelace after it snapped during a rally.
set looked headed for another tiebreak before Nadal broke Nishikori in
the 12th game with a forehand to take a two sets to love advantage.
broke early in the final set and fought off two break points in his
next service game only to hit a double fault on break point to drop
service in the seventh game.
Nadal was broken for 5-4 and was
upset when he was called for a time violation in between points by the
chair umpire, but Nishikori was broken back as he served for the set.
Once again Nadal's nerve and skill held strong in the tiebreak to take the match and advance to the last eight.