Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal survived a marathon third-round battle against Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open tennis tournament, prevailing with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 win.
“It’s obviously an important result for me,” Nadal was quoted as saying by atpworldtour.com after his win in Rod Laver Arena.
“So it’s important for me to win a match like this, having been down two sets to one. I’m very happy.”
A single break of serve was all that was needed in each of the first two sets. Neither player faced a break point in the third set, ultimately forcing a critical tie-break.
Nadal’s forehand error gave the German an opportunity in the third set tie-breaker, which he took full advantage of by hitting a backhand winner on set point to earn a commanding lead.
But the 14-time Grand Slam winner refused to go away. He raced out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set and appeared to finally wear down Zverev with the long baseline rallies that were the highlights of the match.
The young German hit 12 winners to 16 unforced errors in the fourth set while Nadal held onto the lead to force a deciding set.
The final stages of the match ultimately came down to fitness, with Zverev appearing to cramp at 2-2 in the fifth set.
Sensing his opportunity, the ninth seed sprinted through the final four games of the match to prevail in four hours and five minutes.
“It was a tough match,” reflected Nadal. “He’s a player that has an amazing potential. He is able to produce great shots. He’s already one of the best players in the world. He can be even better. He can be fighting for the most important things. So I think he will do it.
“For the confidence, for lot of things, it is very important to win these kind of matches. I worked a lot during all of December to have the chances to compete well in these kind of moments. Even if I started the match with some nerves, I think I was able to came back well.
Nadal will next face sixth seed Gael Monfils, who recorded a 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-4 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber in just under two hours.
“Mentally I have been very positive during the whole match. In terms of physical performance, I felt great, ready for every ball. In terms of level of tennis, I think I finished the match playing much better than how I started the match. That’s a very important thing,” Nadal concluded.