Barty, Krejcikova target semi showdown as Nadal edges toward 21 Slams

Written by The Frontier Post

MELBOURNE (AFP): Ashleigh Barty and Barbora Krejcikova can stay on course for a high-class semi-final collision, while Rafael Nadal looks to continue his march to a record 21st Slam title as the Australian Open hits the quarter-final stage on Tuesday.

Home hope and world number one Barty thrilled the crowd by defeating the giant-killing Amanda Anisimova 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round and faces another American, Jessica Pegula, in the night session on Rod Laver Arena.

French Open champion Krejcikova swept past two-time Melbourne champion Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2 to set up a last-eight meeting with unseeded American Madison Keys.

Barty, the 2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon champion, looks in irresistible form as she chases her first Australian Open crown.

The 25-year-old comfortably dispatched the 20-year-old Anisimova, who had already accounted for defending champion Naomi Osaka and Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic.

Top seed Barty, who is aiming to become Australia s first women s champion on home soil in 44 years, warned she will not make it easy for Pegula.

“I try to adapt my game as best as I can to try and make my opponent uncomfortable,” said Barty. “And that will be no different when Jess and I play.”

Pegula, who revealed last week she had been relaxing with nights at the casino, was a surprise winner over fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.

“That was definitely my best match of the year,” declared the 27-year-old Pegula after reaching the last eight for the second successive year.

French Open champion Krejcikova will open the day on Rod Laver Arena against Keys, who raced past Spain s eighth seed Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-1.

Keys, who won the Adelaide warm-up event, beat 2020 champion Sofia Kenin in the first round and has 10 match wins in 2022, just one short of her total for the whole of 2021.

A semi-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2015 but unseeded this year, Keys puts her revival down to a fresh perspective after struggling previously with Covid-enforced bubble life on tour.

“I don t really thrive when my entire life becomes about tennis,” she said.

– Epic tiebreak –

Nadal had to survive an epic 28-minute tiebreak to seal his quarter-final berth against Canada s 14th seed Denis Shapovalov.

The Spanish great showed all his experience and tenacity to prevail 16-14 in a tiebreak, the longest of his illustrious career, before beating France s Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.

“First set was very emotional,” said the 35-year-old Nadal, who won his lone Australian Open back in 2009.

A second this year would take him ahead of absent rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who also have 20 Grand Slam titles.

The 22-year-old Shapovalov — who caught Covid-19 before the Slam and was not even sure he would play in Melbourne — enjoyed a routine win against an out-of-sorts world number three Alexander Zverev.

“After coming out of quarantine and playing the ATP Cup, I had a little bit of doubt, wasn t ready to play the first match and worked my way through the tournament,” said Shapovalov, who said he suffered aches and pains while recovering from the virus.

“I wasn t practising that much, to be honest, and just trying to prepare the body as best as possible,” he said.

Veteran Frenchman Gael Monfils meets big-serving Italian Matteo Berrettini in the last quarter-final on Tuesday and warned the seventh seed: “I m not quite finished yet”.

The 35-year-old 17th seed Monfils is yet to drop a set in Melbourne while Berrettini sent down 28 aces in sweeping past Spain s Pablo Carreno Busta.

“He s feeling good, I m feeling good,” said Berrettini. “It s going to be a fight.”

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