Australian Open: Nadal not 'obsessed' in grand slam pursuit

By Sports Desk February 15, 2021

Rafael Nadal insisted he is not "obsessed" in his quest for further grand slam glory after the 20-time major champion moved through to the Australian Open quarter-finals. 

Nadal advanced to the last eight of the tournament for the 13th time in his illustrious career following Monday's dominant 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory over 16th seed Fabio Fognini.

World number two Nadal is bidding to claim a record 21st slam crown, while the Spanish star is also looking to become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four majors twice.

As Nadal looks ahead to a showdown with fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, he discussed his motivations, having won everything on offer on the ATP Tour.

"I play tennis. I like tennis," the 34-year-old said. "I like what I am doing. That's the main thing. 

"Of course I am very motivated to win grand slams and to play in the most important events of the year. No doubt about that.

"The only thing that I said is I have never been obsessed to try to be the best or to try to – no, I just did my way. That worked for me.

"I think the ambition is important, to have an ambition, but a healthy ambition. If you have too much ambition then you can be frustrated when you are not able to achieve all the things that you wanted.

"I never approached the sport and my career that way. That's it. I enjoy, I give my best always. I try to compete at my highest standards every day. Sometimes the highest standards are 60 per cent, sometimes they are 100 per cent. But I just try to give my best throughout my career, and that's it.

"For me the main thing is come back home with personal satisfaction that you gave it everything. That's what gives me happiness and makes me stay calm."

Nadal was under an injury cloud heading into the year's first grand slam due to a back problem which forced him to sit out Spain's ATP Cup campaign in Melbourne.

But the 2009 Australian Open champion has looked comfortable at Melbourne Park, where he is yet to drop a set.

"I played first set without a doubt [against Fognini] has been my best level in the tournament," Nadal said. "It's normal, too, because I was able to practice for two days in a row. That makes an important difference. 

"But at the same time, it's important to find positive feelings now. My physical condition needs to keep improving. But I think this match helps, too.

"I was not able to practice the proper way for the last 19 days, but yesterday [Sunday] I started again to increase the amount of work on the practice, and today has been a positive victory with some long points, so that helps for the next match."

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    Adrian Mannarino stumbled across the winning line at 02:33 local time as his late-night efforts at the Australian Open proved too much for last year's surprise package Aslan Karatsev.

    A battling third-round performance from Frenchman Mannarino sets up a showdown with Rafael Nadal next, and the 33-year-old will hope he has sufficient energy left for that daunting task.

    The left-hander clinched victory after four hours and 38 minutes of hard duelling with Karatsev on Margaret Court Arena, with a scattering of fans staying until the bitter end, long enough to hear Mannarino swear during his victory interview.

    The watershed in Melbourne had of course long passed by the time Karatsev netted a backhand on match point.

    After his 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-4 win, world number 69 Mannarino said: "I was enjoying it, you know. I love rallying, and I was just feeling in shape today, it was pretty cool to play."

    But he was aware the match was running well into the early hours, saying: "I realised I was just looking at the clock sometimes, and I was thinking, 'F***'. I don't feel good to be honest'.

    "I'm kind of exhausted. But it was cool, and I was so focused on what I had to do. I was not thinking about the fact I was tired.

    "I was like, 'Okay, go get the next point'. The crowd was cool. Some people had a couple of drinks, I guess, and were commentating more than anybody."

    Mannarino's win took him into the fourth round in Australia for the first time, and it meant he accounted for the 18th seed, a player who won the Sydney Classic last Saturday.

    Karatsev reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last year as a virtual unknown, before going on to establish himself over the course of the season.

    Remarkably, this Friday night into Saturday morning epic was far from the latest finish in Australian Open history, with Lleyton Hewitt having won a five-setter against Marcos Baghdatis at 04:34 local time in 2008.

  • Australian Open: 'Nights like this mean everything' – Nadal Australian Open: 'Nights like this mean everything' – Nadal

    Australian Open favourite Rafael Nadal reflected on a "very special week" after he progressed to the fourth round in Melbourne for the 15th time in his career.

    Nadal cruised into a two-set lead against Karen Khachanov on Friday, though the Spaniard had to overcome a third-set fightback to win 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1.

    The 35-year-old - who triumphed at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier in January - has won all six of the matches he has played so far in 2022.

    Nadal has endured a difficult time with injuries in recent seasons but, with Novak Djokovic out of the picture after his deportation from Australia this week, he has a record 21st grand slam triumph firmly in his sights.

    "It is a very special week for me, coming back," said Nadal, who was out of action from August until December, when he played in an exhibition event in Dubai.

    "Every single time I am able to play here is very special. I played against a great player and a good friend on Tour. It was my best match since I have come back without a doubt.

    "I have gone through some very tough times over the past year, but nights like tonight mean everything.

    "I keep fighting and going every day. I put a lot of effort in to be back with where I am today, so I am happy."

    Nadal has won all eight matches against Russian Khachanov, and he will face Adrian Mannarino, whose four-set win over Aslan Karatsev concluded late into the Melbourne night.

    He may only have won the Australian Open on one occasion, in 2009, but only Roger Federer (18) has reached the fourth round in Melbourne on more occasions than Nadal.

  • Australian Open: Nadal downs Khachanov to secure fourth-round berth Australian Open: Nadal downs Khachanov to secure fourth-round berth

    Rafael Nadal continued his search for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title with a routine victory over Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open.

    The Spaniard, aiming to achieve the record for most grand slams won by a man, cruised past Khachanov with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 third-round victory at the first major of 2022 on Friday.

    Nadal improved upon his perfect 7-0 record against the Russian, who he last faced at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, and has only ever lost two of 20 sets in meetings between the pair.

    The 35-year-old will now wait to see whether he faces Aslan Karatsev, the 18th seed in Melbourne, or Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round.

     

    Nadal raced out the blocks, breaking the 25-year-old at the first time of asking as he grasped a 3-0 lead within the opening exchanges at Rod Laver Arena.

    The 28th seed Khachanov fought back to 5-3 down but Nadal produced another dominant service to secure the first set, in which he dropped just one point on his serve.

    A marathon first service game of the second set eventually ended with Nadal again breaking Khachanov after a gruelling 13 minutes and seven deuces before claiming the second set in straightforward fashion.

    However, Khachanov – who managed silver at the Tokyo Olympics – bounced back in the third with Nadal making numerous mistakes and unable to cope with his mammoth forehand.

    Nadal managed to regain his composure in the following set, celebrating enthusiastically after breaking Khachanov's first service game, before outclassing his opponent, who seemed to run out of steam in a match that lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes.

    DATA SLAM: Nadal powers on at Melbourne Park

    Nadal has lost on only two occasions in his career when boasting a two-set lead, with the most recent coming against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-final of this tournament last year.

    Despite a spirited fightback from the Russian, Nadal moved onto a 72-15 record at the year's first major, with only Roger Federer (102) and Novak Djokovic (82) recording more victories at Melbourne Park.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Nadal – 39/30

    Khachanov – 36/42

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Nadal – 4/6

    Khachanov – 14/3

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Nadal – 5/15

    Khachanov – 1/5

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