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Pumped-up Nadal, home hero Barty march into Melbourne quarters

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Rafael Nadal survived an epic 28-minute tiebreak to seal his spot in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and top seed Ashleigh Barty joined him with victory over giant-killer Amanda Anisimova on Sunday.

Nadal will now face Canada’s 14th seed Denis Shapovalov after he stunned third seed and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev — who said “everything” went wrong.

“First set was very emotional,” said the 35-year-old Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, who pumped his fists after emerging victorious from a marathon first-set tiebreak on a steamy day in Melbourne. 

The Spaniard, who dropped a set for the first time in the tournament before powering past Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the previous round, will now face Shapovalov in the last eight.

The German smashed his racquet and afterwards failed to find any positives.

Asked what went wrong by reporters, he replied: “Everything.”

The 35-year-old Monfils is yet to drop a set in Melbourne.

“He’s feeling good, I’m feeling good,” he said of his clash with Monfils.

– Barty powers on –

The 20-year-old Anisimova beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and was fresh from knocking out defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Reminded that last year’s Australian Open went behind closed doors mid-tournament because of Covid, Barty told an adoring Rod Laver Arena crowd that playing in front of them was “a lot more fun”.

The 21st-seeded Pegula, who revealed earlier this week she has been relaxing by spending every night at the casino, was a surprise winner over fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.

She blew away former two-time Melbourne champion Victoria Azarenka, who had a neck problem, to set up a meeting with unseeded American Madison Keys.

“It was really amazing today because she is a champion here and she likes this court, she’s very experienced on this court,” said Krejcikova of Azarenka.

Keys, who beat 2020 champion Sofia Kenin in the first round, said she had brought a fresh perspective into 2022 after struggling with the Covid-enforced bubble life on tour last year.

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