Rafael Nadal continued his progress in the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 straight-sets win over Fabio Fognini in the fourth round.
Nadal is still yet to drop a set in the event, despite fears before the tournament that he could pull out due to a back niggle.
He made the ideal start to the encounter against Fognini, breaking the Italian’s serve at the first time of asking. The 33-year-old soon sprung into life, but unforced errors let him down and handed the impetus right back to the 2009 champion and Nadal did not look back from there.
Fognini made all the running in the early stages of the second and made it 4-2, punishing some lapses from the Spaniard. But Nadal went on a rampage from there, rattling off four straight games to move into a commanding position.
Fognini had famously come back from two sets and a break down against Nadal at the 2015 US Open and, when he netted a ground stroke, he was left needing a repeat of that remarkable Lazarus act.
Perhaps the match was most notable for a piece of brilliance from Nadal which Eurosport expert Alex Corretja described as a “miracle shot”, a backhand chipped lob.
A second break soon followed and Nadal was going through the gears as he raced to the last eight and a match up with Stefanos Tsitsipas, after Matteo Berrettini was forced to withdraw due to injury.
“When you go on court in the round of 16 against a great player like Fabio, you are worried in every moment,” Nadal said after the match.
“At the same time, you can’t expect to go on court and not have problems facing this kind of player. In the second set, I don’t think I played a good game when he broke me, I was lucky to get the break back immediately. Then I saved [break points] at 0-40 – that was the key.
“In quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, you’re going to face a very tough opponent. They are both young, strong and with a lot of energy.
“It’s going to be a big challenge. I’m happy to be through today. It was an important victory for my confidence, for everything.”