Nadal faces Fognini test, Russians on course for last-eight clash

Nadal faces Fognini test, Russians on course for last-eight clash

FILE – Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 6, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal during a practice session before the Australian Open REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Rafael Nadal headlines Monday’s fourth-round action at the Australian Open, where victory against 16th seed Fabio Fognini will move him just three wins away from a record 21st Grand Slam crown.
Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev can set up an all-Russian quarterfinal showdown, while in the women’s draw Ashleigh Barty continues her bid to be the first Australian winner in 43 years.
Nadal is also aiming to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win each of the four major championships on multiple occasions by lifting the Norman Brookes Memorial Trophy on Sunday for a second time.
Nadal did not drop a set to reach the second week and reported on Saturday that the stiffness in his sore back had eased for the first time in more than a fortnight.
“Today is better, first day I felt an improvement, and that’s the most important thing for me today, more than any other thing,” Nadal said, after his win against Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
Spain’s Nadal has a 12-4 win-loss record against the 33-year-old Italian Fognini, who is bidding to reach a Slam quarter-final for just the second time in his long career after Roland Garros in 2011.
Rublev, the seventh seed, completed a flawless first week without dropping a set when he powered past Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 with 33 winners on Saturday.
He will attempt to reach his maiden Australian Open quarter-final against 24th seed Casper Ruud.
“We played a couple of times and it was always a great match, with great intensity,” said Rublev of Ruud.
The 22-year-old Norwegian reached the last 16 at a Slam for the first time with a four-set victory against Radu Albot.
Like father, like son
He follows his father in becoming only the second player from Norway to reach this stage at a Grand Slam. Dad Christian Ruud achieved the same feat at the 1997 Australian Open.
Fourth seed Medvedev had to survive a five-setter to earn his 17th consecutive win against Filip Krajinovic and reach the fourth round for the third year in a row.
Medvedev, who won the Paris Masters and the ATP Tour Finals in London to round out a great 2020 campaign and then went unbeaten as Russia won the ATP Cup plays Mackenzie McDonald.
The Russian has beaten the American world number 192 in both of their previous meetings.
Barty is a model of consistency, having reached at least the fourth round at every Slam she has played since first making the second week of a major at the 2018 US Open.
The world number one will look to advance to the quarter-finals at the expense of unseeded American Shelby Rogers when they open the evening session on Rod Laver Arena.
If she wins she will face either Elise Mertens of Belgium or Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, who will feature in a night match on the neighbouring Margaret Court Arena.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fifth seed from Greece, will round out the action in a late-night match on Rod Laver against Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini.
The other women’s matches see fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine first up on Rod Laver against unseeded American Jessica Pegula, followed by Croatia’s Donna Vekic against Jennifer Brady of the US.
For the third day running there will be no fans allowed because of a snap state-wide lockdown caused by a coronavirus cluster at hotel near Melbourne airport.

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