Nadal, Russians, Barty in Australian Open quarters

Melbourne (AFP) –


A motivated Rafael Nadal can move two matches away from a record 21st Grand Slam title, Ashleigh Barty continues her bid to be the first home winner in 43 years and two unbeaten Russians will slug it out in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Nadal said that he remained as hungry as ever for Grand Slam titles ahead of his quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fifth seed, which will be the prime-time evening clash on Rod Laver Arena.

"I play tennis," said Nadal. "I like tennis. I like what I am doing. That's the main thing. Of course, I am very motivated to win Grand Slams. No doubt about that."

The Spaniard only has one Australian Open title among his 20 Grand Slam trophies, that came back in 2009 when he defeated Roger Federer in the final.

Now he stands three matches away from eclipsing Federer's record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles and becoming the first man since the Open era began in 1968 to capture all four majors twice.

Nadal blew away Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in the Australian Open semi-finals in 2019, after the 22-year-old Greek had knocked out Federer to become the first player from his country to reach the last four at a major.

The portents are not good for Tsitsipas, who has only one win against Nadal in their seven meetings to date, at Madrid in 2019.

The winner is guaranteed to play a Russian in the semi-final, with world number four Daniil Medvedev and eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev colliding.

- 'It's in the past' -

Both Medvedev and Rublev went unbeaten to start 2021 in the ATP Cup and are the form players of men's tennis.

Medvedev is on an 18-match winning streak that includes last year's Paris Masters and ATP Tour Finals tournament victories while Rublev won five Tour-level titles in 2020, more than any other player.

Medvedev, 25, won in straight sets when the pair clashed at the same stage in last year's US Open, and has a 3-0 win-loss career record against his younger compatriot, who is 22.

"That's in the past," said Rublev. "I may take a lesson from that match. But it's now going to be a new story, new match."

The quarter-final action will begin with Barty attempting to reach her second successive Australian Open semi-final against 25th seed Karolina Muchova.

World number one Barty is aiming to become the tournament's first Australian champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Australian expectations are rising for Barty, whose side of the draw has opened up with the early exits of defending champion Sofia Kenin, world number five Elina Svitolina and world number six Karolina Pliskova.

Jennifer Brady is the next highest seed in Barty's half of the draw and the American faces compatriot Jessica Pegula in Wednesday's other quarter-final.

Brady, a semi-finalist at last year's US Open, was one of 72 players who had to endure hard quarantine on arrival in Australia but she was determined to keep a positive attitude which has stood her in good stead.

"I think pretty much everyone got through it. But a lot of people were complaining and I told myself I wasn't going to complain," she said.

"I mean, there's way worse things going on in the world than me being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days."

Unseeded 26-year-old Pegula, whose billionaire father Terry owns the Buffalo Bills NFL team, said she drew inspiration from the NFL team's recent run to the playoffs to reach her maiden Slam quarter-final.