Rafael Nadal remains on course to earn his record-breaking 21st grand slam at the Australian Open with a comfortable victory over Fabio Fognini on Monday.
The No. 2 seed didn’t drop a set in his 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over the Italian No. 16 seed to advance to the quarterfinals of the first grand slam of the year.
The victory means that Nadal, who won the tournament in 2009, has qualified for his 13th Australian Open quarterfinal. It’s also the 43rd time that he’s advanced to the last eight of a major.
“I played a good game when he broke me and was lucky to have the break back immediately and save a game from love-40 so I was a bit lucky,” Nadal told the media afterward.
“It was humid and warm but the conditions are quicker during the day and for me it’s better to play in the day as I like the ball flying but I need to adapt for all the conditions.
“I’m happy the back is holding up but [Tuesday] will be an important day for practice,” he added, referencing the back injury that forced him to withdraw from the warmup event prior to the beginning of the Australian Open.
Despite entering the tournament with injury concerns overshadowing his prospects in Melbourne, the Spaniard looks to be peaking at just the right time.
Having been blitzed by Nadal’s fast start, Fognini battled back after falling into a one-set deficit and had three opportunities to carve out a 5-3 lead in the second set.
But Nadal, showing his pedigree and resolve, halted the Italian’s progress, eventually winning four straight games to clinch the second set.
In wrapping up the third set with relatively few struggles, the 34-year-old set up a clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas, who received a free passage through his fourth-round match after opponent Matteo Berrettini withdrew with an abdominal strain.
Nadal is now three victories away from winning his 21st grand slam, bettering the men’s record he currently shares with Roger Federer.