Sports, Tennis

Improving Nadal plays best set yet to down Fognini

Published : 15 Feb 2021 08:28 PM


Rafael Nadal said he played his best set of the tournament in beating old nemesis Fabio Fognini at the Australian Open Monday as the world number two fights back to fitness from a back injury.

The Spaniard moved into his 43rd Grand Slam quarter-final with his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win on Rod Laver Arena, which set up a clash with fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal has been struggling with lower back tightness since arriving in Australia, but said he was starting to increase his workload as the problem gets better.

“I played first set, without a doubt, my best level in the tournament,” said Nadal, who is chasing his 21st major title and sole ownership of the men’s record, which he currently shares with Federer.

“Well, it’s normal, too, because I was able to practise for two days in a row. That makes an important difference. My physical condition needs to keep improving, but I think this match helps, too.

“I was not able to practise the proper way for the last 19 days,” he added. “But yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work on the practice, and today has been a positive victory with some long points, so that helps for the next match.”

It is the 13th time he has made the last eight in Australia, moving to joint third on the all-time list behind Roger Federer (15) and John Newcombe (14).

The result keeps him on track to meet top seed Novak Djokovic in the final, with the Serb, who is carrying an abdominal injury, into his 12th quarter-final after seeing off Milos Raonic on Sunday evening.