Nadal forced to dig deep

Tennis Australian Open : Spaniard overcomes Zverev in five-setter; Serena has it easy

Nadal forced to dig deep

 Rafael Nadal's ageing legs outlasted German teenager Alexander Zverev in an epic five sets at the Australian Open on Saturday.

Nadal needed all his trademark grit against Zverev, 19, dubbed "the future of tennis", and his superior fitness told as he ground out a thrilling 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2 win.

Women’s world No 1 Serena Williams too sailed into the last 16 with a straight sets victory over fellow American Nicole Gibbs. 

Germany's Zverev looked in discomfort as he won a punishing 37-shot rally nearly four hours into their contest as Nadal, still full of running, pressed his advantage in the final set.

It means Nadal, 30, follows fellow veteran Roger Federer into the last 16 of a contest now missing defending champion Novak Djokovic after his stunning defeat to Denis Istomin.

"Everybody knows how good Alexander is," said Nadal. "He's the future of our sport, and the present."

Serena, by contrast, had no such trouble as she brushed off Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 to maintain her charge towards a 23rd Grand Slam title.

Serena, back after an injury break at the end of 2016, has been in brilliant form and she will take some stopping as she zeroes in on Steffi Graf's Open-era record.

The next player to take on Serena is Barbora Strycova, who ousted France's Caroline Garcia to earn a shot at the world number two.

"Obviously I'm here for one reason," said Williams, who again lifted her index finger in celebration at her victory, symbolising the number one.

Elsewhere, the 117th-ranked Istomin built on his win over Djokovic by beating Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the pre-quarterfinals for the first time.

David Goffin halted towering Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who won a tournament-record 84-game match in the first round, to set up a clash against Austrian eighth seed Dominic Thiem.

Roberto Bautista Agut ousted fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 and will next play third seed Milos Raonic, who beat Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-3.

In the women's draw, Britain's Johanna Konta maintained her sizzling form with a dominant 6-3, 6-1 victory over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

Konta's prize is a round-of-16 rematch with Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, whom she edged at the same stage last year, going 8-6 in the final set.

Makarova, seeded 30, beat sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova in a three set marathon.
Fifth seed Karolina Pliskova survived a huge scare, scrambling into the fourth round after battling from a set down to beat Latvian teen Jelena Ostapenko 4-6, 6-0, 10-8.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who hadn't won an Australian Open match since 1998 before this year, extended her fairytale run by beating Greece's Maria Sakkari 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Next up for the 34-year-old Croatian, who put her career on hold to flee her abusive father, is American qualifier Jennifer Brady, who upset 14th seed Elena Vesnina.

Men’s singles: Round 3 (prefix denotes seedings): 15-Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt 18-Richard Gasquet (Fra) 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; 3-Milos Raonic (Can) bt 25-Gilles Simon (Fra) 6-2, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3; 6-Gael Monfils (Fra) bt 32-Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-4; 9-Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt 24-Alexander Zverev (Ger) 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2;  13-Roberto Bautista (Esp) bt 21-David Ferrer (Esp) 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4; Denis Istomin (Uzb) bt 30-Pablo Carreno (Esp) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; 8-Dominic Thiem (Aus) bt Benoit Paire (Fra) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; 11-David Goffin (Bel) bt 20-Ivo Karlovic (Cro) 6-3,  6-2, 6-4.

Women’s singles: Round 3: Jennifer Brady (USA) bt 14-Elena Vesnina (Rus) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2; Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Cro) bt Maria Sakkari (Gre) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3; 30-Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) bt 6-Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) 6-2, 6-7, (3/7), 6-3; 16-Barbora Strycova (Cze) bt 21-Caroline Garcia (Fra) 6-2, 7-5; 2-Serena Williams (USA) bt Nicole Gibbs (USA) 6-1, 6-3; 9-Johanna Konta (Gbr) bt 17-Caroline Wozniacki (Den) 6-3, 6-1; 22-Daria Gavrilova (Aus) bt 12-Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4; 5-Karolina Pliskova (Cze) bt Jelena Ostapenko (Lat) 4-6, 6-0, 10-8.

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