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Nadal Overcomes Nishikori To Reach QFs

Melbourne, Australia

Nadal © Getty ImagesRafael Nadal triumphs against Kei Nishikori after a three-hour battle.

Top seed Rafael Nadal passed his first big test of the Australian Open, overcoming Japan’s Kei Nishikori 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(3) on Monday afternoon to earn his place in the quarter-finals.

Nadal had marched into the Round of 16 with the loss of 16 games, and though his match against Nishikori also ended in straight sets, the victory proved to be far from routine.

After dropping his opening service game, the 17th-ranked Nishikori - who already has one victory over a World No. 1 under his belt - refused to be intimidated. He succeeded in breaking Nadal four times, and forced the top seed to rally from down in both the second and third sets.

Nadal clinched the second set with two late breaks, but then lost two straight service games in the third set to go from a 3-1 lead to a 4-5 deficit. He prevented Nishikori from serving out the set, and once again prevailed in a tie-break to claim victory after three hours and 17 minutes.

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"[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."

Nadal is now tied with South African Wayne Ferreira in seventh place for number of victories at the Australian (39).

In his seventh quarter-final at the Australian Open, Nadal will face 22-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, the youngest quarter-finalist at in Melbourne since Nishikori in 2012. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 3-0, but had been extended to three sets in each of those ATP World Tour meetings.

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