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Nadal beats Kyrgios in epic clash to reach Australian Open quarter-final

The world number one weathered a fierce storm in Melbourne.

Nadal celebrates winning.
Nadal celebrates winning.
Image: AAP/PA Images

RAFAEL NADAL HAS booked his spot in the Australian Open quarter-finals after edging out Nick Kyrgios in a four-set thriller.

33-year-old top seed and world number one Nadal had not dropped a set so far in this tournament before 23rd-seed Kyrgios proved to be the top seed’s toughest test thus far. 

The Spaniard came through 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4), and will now face Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the last eight.

Australian Kyrgios — a huge basketball fan — came on court wearing an LA Lakers shirt in honour of the late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash yesterday.

It was a riveting clash on Rod Laver Arena, as Nadal kept his quest for a 20th Grand Slam title alive in reaching his 41st Grand Slam quarter-final.

The tennis heavyweights went head-to-head for three hours and 38 minutes in an epic encounter, in which the pair played some mesmerising rallies in a high-quality third set before Nadal pulled away.

Now, his bid to win just a second Australian Open title (his only was in 2009) roars on.

“What can I say about Nick? When he is playing like he did today with this positive attitude, he brings a lot of positive things to our sport,” Nadal said of his rival afterwards.

tennis-2020-australian-open-day-8 Kyrgios warmed up in a Kobe Bryant basketball shirt. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

“I encourage him to keep working like this because he is one of the highest talents we have on our tour, and I like the Nick Kyrgios during the whole of this tournament.”

It was billed as a grudge match after a series of bad-tempered exchanges last year when Nadal accused Kyrgios of lacking respect, and the Australian fired back that the Spaniard was “super salty”.

But Kyrgios struck a conciliatory tone beforehand, calling Nadal “a hell of a player,” and the clash was played with respect from both sides.

There was little to split them on paper, with Nadal leading their career head-to-head 4-3 but Kyrgios 2-1 up on hardcourts and an even 1-1 in their Grand Slam matches, both at Wimbledon.

The second of those, last year, was a torrid affair, with Kyrgios ranting at the umpire, serving underarm and deliberately firing a forehand at the Spaniard.

Today, there was just one main incident from Kyrgios. When he went 3-1 down in the tie-breaker, he slammed his racket off the court, leaving it a mangled mess.

- Additional reporting from AFP

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Emma Duffy

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