Australian Open: Nadal's back finally feeling better while Medvedev survives scare

By Sports Desk February 13, 2021

Rafael Nadal was able to offer a positive update on his fitness after easing into the second week at the Australian Open.

The 20-time grand slam champion is playing in his first tournament since November's ATP Finals and faced a battle to make the Melbourne major due to a back problem.

But Nadal has made the fourth round without dropping a set, seeing off Cameron Norrie 7-5 6-2 7-5 on Saturday.

"I did things well, [then there are] things that I need to improve. Something normal," the Spaniard said. "But, yes, happy, of course. Second week, straight sets. Can't complain."
 

PAIN RELIEF AT LAST FOR RAFA

Nadal might have been similarly dominant in his prior matches but revealed after beating Norrie he is only now feeling fitter.

"No, the back was not getting better each day; it was getting better today," he said. "But today is better, yeah, the first day I feel an improvement, and that's the most important thing for me today, more than any other thing.

"Of course, I was not serving my normal serve for the last 15 days. Today is the first day that I started to serve again my normal serve.

"But yesterday I didn't practice, so today was just warming up with the new, normal movement.

"So, of course, I didn't serve bad, but I can do better, I think. And I'm looking forward to doing it better. It has been an important victory for me.

"The biggest victory is the back is better for the first day. That's the most important thing."

Nadal will face Fabio Fognini next after he ended Australia's interest in the home grand slam with a 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory over Alex De Minaur, the host nation's final hope.

"It's one of those matches," an impressed De Minaur said. "You're out there leaving it all out there, but you can just feel that he's playing at another level."
 

MOODY MEDVEDEV MAKES AMENDS

There are three Russian men in the last 16 for the first time in Melbourne in the Open Era, but the country's biggest name survived a major scare.

Daniil Medvedev was cruising after taking the first two sets against Filip Krajinovic, only to drop the next two and engage in an angry back-and-forth with coach Gilles Cervara.

Cervara eventually left Medvedev's box as the fourth seed trailed 4-1 in the fourth set and did not return, but the 25-year-old recovered to get the job done in dominant fashion, a 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 victor.

Medvedev, with Mackenzie McDonald next, said of the incident with Cervara: "He said just before leaving that he's sure I'm going to win the match, but he's going to leave to let me be more calm.

"Sometimes maybe I will disagree but this time for sure it was a good thing to do.

"Today it helped, and definitely we're going to talk about it a little bit, but there is not a big deal."

Andrey Rublev joined Medvedev and compatriot Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round as he improved to 7-0 for the year with a three-set defeat of Feliciano Lopez. He will play Casper Ruud.
 

HISTORY CHANNEL OVER CHAMP

Defending champion Novak Djokovic's struggles with injury on Friday might have intrigued much of the tennis public, but Stefanos Tsitsipas was not overly concerned.

The fifth seed, who breezed past Mikael Ymer, did not watch the match and revealed he has little interest in keeping up with the exploits of his rivals.

"I might watch [Djokovic and Nadal] a little bit on TV if it happens that the TV is on or the right channel is on," he said. "Otherwise I just switch to History Channel.

"Definitely not tennis history. I think I have enough of tennis being in here every single day."

Tsitsipas will next play Matteo Berrettini, who is enjoying his best run at the Australian Open and saw off a side complaint to advance in three sets by edging Karen Khachanov, another Russian, in a trio of tie-breakers.

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    Ruud had never won a set off Djokovic in their past five meetings, but found his form against the tournament’s top seed to battle through to the final, where he will face Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    In a rematch of last year’s French Open final between the pair, Djokovic – who had appeared to struggle physically during his quarter-final win over Alex De Minaur – failed to find his usual high levels.

    Ruud, though, rose to the occasion on Court Rainier III to hold off a fightback from the Serbian in the final set, with Djokovic recovering from 4-1 down to level.

    The 25-year-old rallied to claim a third match point after Djokovic double faulted, completing a hard-fought victory in two hours and 17 minutes.

    Djokovic, meanwhile, sees his hunt for a first tournament win of 2024 continue.

    “I am super happy. This is a day I will remember for a long time,” Ruud told the ATP Tour website.

    “Beating a world number one is something I have never done and beating Novak is something I have never done.

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    “And obviously everyone on the bench and the support staff, they’ve been working around the clock to keep us fit and get us back on court because we finished pretty late last night.

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    Speaking on the BBC, the former US Open champion said: “I was completely the underdog, especially going out here in her house, on clay. I definitely turned it around. I fought really hard, I dug in.

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    The 21-year-old is inexperienced on clay but said again ahead of the tie that she feels it could be a good surface for her, and this was her best victory for more than a year.

    The power of Garcia, who recently defeated Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka at the Miami Open, helped her edge a high-quality opening set, and the 30-year-old looked in control when she broke serve again to start the second.

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    The Kent player, ranked 302, saw the funny side after she celebrated a game short of victory at 5-1, but she kept her head impressively and looked delighted when a final volley earned her the spoils.

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    Earlier, Boulter’s inexperience on clay showed as she lost 12 games in a row against fast-rising 21-year-old Parry.

    Boulter has had an exceptional season so far but this was only the 17th match of her career on clay and her first at tour level.

    The British number one, ranked 28, told reporters: “I have to get better on the clay. It’s such a learning experience and it’s a really good learning experience for me.

    “I know my base level is there and that I can play some really good stuff. Practice has been awesome. The scoreline was tough but I felt it was a lot closer than it seemed.”

    Both captains must decide whether to make changes for Saturday, with Boulter scheduled to take on Garcia first up before Raducanu faces Parry.

    Three wins are needed to clinch a place in November’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville, and France would be strong favourites if it came down to a deciding doubles.

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