World No. 1 Rafael Nadal earned his second victory over France’s Gael Monfils this season in arguably his best performance of the year so far. The Spaniard’s victory sets up an exciting fourth round clash with Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori, who has had a fantastic week in Melbourne as well. The Nadal vs Nishikori head-to-head record stands at a perfect 5-0 for the Spaniard, who has dominated their encounters dating back to 2008.
Nadal played arguably his best match of the season so far against Monfils, as he hit 2 aces and 21 winners to his 18 unforced errors. His consistency was the key to the match, as he managed to save all six break point opportunities against him and break Monfils on six occasions (out of 12) throughout the match. Ultimately, Nadal came through 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and four minutes to reach the fourth round in Melbourne.
“Tonight I think I played a great match,” said Nadal. “I’m very happy with the way that I played against a very tough opponent like Gaël. So that makes the level that I played tonight better because it was against a tough opponent.”
The 27-year-old will now face Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who he has only ever dropped one set to in five previous encounters.
“Kei is a great player,” said Nadal. “He’s able to play very aggressive, make very easy the very difficult things. He’s very quick on the movements. Will be a very tough opponent for me. I think he had a very good victory today.
The world No. 11 won 17 of the final 18 games to defeat Donald Young, the final male American in the draw, 7-5, 6-1, 6-0. Nishikori’s rallying efforts in the sfirst set add to the spectacle, as he trailed 2-5 in that set before winning the next five straight games. Now, he has a far tougher obstacle in his path: world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
“He’s obviously playing really well, especially here,” said Nishikori. “I haven’t beaten him yet, so hopefully I can play good against him. But I’m playing well. Really confident and my body is good. Everything is working well. If I can play my best tennis, I think I have some chance to win.”
Nishikori trails 0-5 in the head-to-head record against the Spaniard, leading us to the obvious deduction that he won’t manage a victory in tomorrow’s contest. While Nadal certainly deserves to be labelled a heavy favourite, Nishikori himself has claimed to be confident in his body and performances, and along with the support of new coach Michael Chang, believes he has a chance to topple to top seed and reach the quarter-final stage. It will be interesting to see if he can give Nadal a run for his money on Centre Court.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets