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In a match that lived up to it’s billing, Nadal edged out Alexander Zverev in a thrilling five setter 4-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-2 in just over four hours. Experience and just as importantly, fitness contributed a lot to Nadal finally taking the victory. Zverev began cramping in the fifth and struggled from them on despite his best efforts. The win ended a run of three straight losses in matches that went to the fifth set, including twice last year to Lucas Pouille and Fernando Verdasco.
For a man seen as a mental giant, these matches were a surprise to see Nadal lose against either inexperienced players or those considered to be weaker mentally so this will be a huge boost to Nadal’s confidence to have ended his small run of five set losses. “I think I finished the match playing much better than what I started the match, no? That’s a very important thing.” he said.
Meanwhile, Monfils has been quietly making his way throughout the draw without much fuss for a top 10 player. Wins over Vesely, Dolgopolov and Kohlschreiber were all very comfortable for the Frenchman who is looking to match his best run in Melbourne – a quarter final run last year. This tournament has been his first of the year and he hasn’t looked rusty at all, especially considering he lost five of his last six matches in 2016.
While it’s fair to say that Monfils has stepped it up another level the past year, his record against Nadal still makes for dire reading. He is 2-12 against the Spaniard with the two wins coming in 2009 and 2012. They met once last year on clay with Nadal winning the final set 6-0 in the Monte Carlo final after two close sets previously. They also met here in 2014 with Nadal dropping just six games, something that seems very unlikely this time round.