Nadal beats Nishikori, faces Dimitrov in Australian Open quarter-finals

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Sixteenth-seeded Kei Nishikori gave the World no. 1 a lot to think about during their fourth round Australian Open 2014 match, yet Rafael Nadal managed to progress in straight sets nonetheless. The highest-ranked Japanese got broken immediately in the opening set, but he recovered quickly to make it 2-2 and eventually force a tie-break where Rafa did just enough to secure the first set. Nishikori kept fighting relentlessly in the set number two where he moved 4-2 ahead, yet the Spaniard again stepped up when it mattered the most to grab five out of remaining six games and obtain a double set cushion. The final set would be a real rollercoaster as the Japanese returned from a break down and was only a service game away from pulling one set back, but he failed to deliver and we were in for another breaker. Nishikori ran out of gas by that time and Nadal wrapped up the proceedings for a hard-fought 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory with each of the sets lasting over an hour. The Japanese is yet to defeat Rafa on the tour as the latter improved the head-to-head score to 6-0.

“[Nishikori] played a fantastic match, in my opinion,” said Nadal. “Just a few mistakes in some moments that were tough ones. But for the rest of the match he played very aggressively and he went for his shots. He came on court with the determination to take the ball very early and go for winners.”

22nd-seed Grigor Dimitrov and Roberto Bautista Agut were the first to step on the court of Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne this Monday to decide who of them will reach the debut Grand Slam quarter-finals. The young Bulgarian sent home Raonic two days ago, whilst the unseeded Spanish athlete upset Del Potro and Paire in the previous rounds. Bautista Agut was leading the head-to-head score 2-1 prior to the round of 16 encounter.

Dimitrov stole the opponent’s serve in the fourth game of the opener and confirmed it with some difficulties before converting the third set point thirty-two minutes into the match. The World no. 62 Spaniard responded in style to create a 3-0 advantage in the beginning of the set number two – his rival failed to produce any break back points and Bautista Agut squared things up with a hold to love. However, the Bulgarian reinstated his dominance in the following set where he surrendered only three points on his serve and restored the lead after breaking for the second time in the set. He struggled a bit in the opening game of the set four, but averted a couple of break points before stunning the Spaniard once again in the tenth game to complete a historic 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 6-4 victory after two hours and twenty-six minutes of play.

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