Australian Open: Rafael Nadal outlasts Gael Monfils to secure quarterfinal spot

2009 champion Rafael Nadal booked his place in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, win over Gael Monfils. This victory marks the first time the Spaniard has reached the quarterfinals of a grand slam since Roland Garros 2015. Nadal will face off against the highest remaining seed Milos Raonic for a place in the semifinals.  

Monfils started slowly in the opening two sets, allowing Nadal to take early leads in both and take an easy two-set lead. The Frenchman raised his level in the third set to steal a late break and kept his momentum going into the fourth as his huge serves and groundstrokes took him to a 4-2 lead. His level began to dip soon after and Nadal took advantage, bringing out his best when he needed it most to reel off the next four games in a row to take the set and book his place in the last eight. 

Slow start from Monfils 

Nadal served first to get the match underway with three forehand errors giving Monfils a look at an early break point. The Spaniard took advantage of a passive Monfils to push him back, dictating before finishing at the net with a volley winner. A game point came and went for Nadal but he battled for a second and took it with a return into the net from the Frenchman. A horrible service game followed for Monfils and Nadal was gifted an easy break. The Spaniard extended his lead with a good hold, dictating from the baseline to take a quick 3-0 lead.  

Monfils recovered to come through an impressive love hold. Nadal followed with a love hold of his own as the Frenchman hit four errors in a row. A forehand down the line attempt from Monfils on serve in the next game landed wide and gave Nadal a lead on the return. Huge serving from the Frenchman brought him through another tight service game, saving a break point before securing the hold on his fifth game point with a forehand winner.  

Nadal fires a forehand (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Nadal fires a forehand (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Much better play on the return followed for Monfils as he fired two winners to force Nadal to 30-30. He was taking the ball much earlier and playing much more aggressive, but the Spaniard still came out of the crucial game to lead 5-2. A bad smash into the net on serve for Monfils gave Nadal a lead on return again as he was looking to close out the set. A set point for the Spaniard was erased with a serve-volley from the Frenchman and he held on to force Nadal to serve it out. Monfils was still searching for the break back and drew Nadal into the net before striking a lob winner to get into the return game. Great serving from the Spaniard brought him through the hold easily, giving him the first set 6-3. 

Nadal in control 

Nadal kept his momentum going into the second set, breaking Monfils straight away to take the lead. The Frenchman turned up the aggression on return as he looked to break back but Nadal was still serving very well and managed to come through to extend his lead. Monfils flew through a love hold to reduce the deficit to one game. 

There was still no luck on the return for the Frenchman as Nadal sailed through another hold of serve to lead 3-1. Monfils followed with some excellent serving of his own to stay a game away from the Spaniard. A couple of errors from Nadal handed Monfils a 0-30 lead on return. The Frenchman then fired a forehand winner to bring up three break points. A shanked forehand from Monfils saved the first but a backhand slice from Nadal drifted long to give the Frenchman his first break of the match, leveling the pair at 3-3.

Nadal in action (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Nadal in action (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Nadal fired a forehand passing shot to bring up three break points to regain his lead. A forced error from Monfils after the Spaniard struck the same forehand took him back in front. The lead was easily consolidated as Monfils couldn't keep up the level of the previous return game. Nadal earned another four break points to close out the set on return. Monfils fired two winners to save the first two but the Spaniard took the third with some aggressive groundstrokes giving him the advantage, securing the second set 6-3. 

Frenchman's fightback 

Great defense from Nadal brought him through a quick love hold to begin the third set. A scorching forehand passing shot winner from the Spaniard followed by an error from Monfils left Nadal with opportunities on return at 30-30. A backhand slice from the Spaniard drifted wide and Monfils came through the tight game with a backhand down the line winner. Nadal's serving was still causing problems for the Frenchman and again he came through an easy hold of serve to lead 2-1. 

A much better hold from Monfils followed, two aces taking him through a much needed quick hold to level the pair. The Frenchman then took a lead on return as he fired a scorching forehand down the line winner, but huge hitting just caused errors from Monfils in the next couple of points as Nadal raced to 40-15. A forehand return winner from the Frenchman and an error from Nadal leveled them at deuce but a return long seen another game point arrive for the Spaniard, amazing defense giving him the hold for 3-2. 

Monfils steals the third set (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Monfils steals the third set (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Monfils battled through another hold, big serves in the crucial moments giving him the advantage as Nadal twice fought his way to deuce. Excellent volleying from the Frenchman gave him opportunities on return at 30-30 but a forehand into the net gave Nadal a game point, taking it with a forehand shanked return from Monfils. Some showmanship from the Frenchman seen him through a confident hold to level the set at 4-4.  

A loose game and a first double fault from Nadal gave Monfils two break points, an unforced error from the Spaniard allowing Monfils to serve for the set. The lead was immediately in danger as the Frenchman had a slow start to the game, handing Nadal three break back points. A confident move into the net and two huge serves in the crucial moments forced the pair to deuce. A double fault brought up another break point for Nadal but Monfils kept battling and hung on to his lead, taking the set 6-4 with a huge serve and a forehand winner.  

Nadal battles for victory 

Nadal got back on track in the beginning of the fourth set with a confident love hold taking him into the lead. Big hitting from the Frenchman seen him through a quick hold of his own but there was no luck for him on return as Nadal followed up with his second consecutive love hold. Monfils battled to save two break points in the next game, holding on to level the pair early.   

Trouble for the Spaniard came as Monfils finished off an outstanding thirty-two stroke rally with a forehand passing shot winner to lead 0-30 on return. A volley into the net from Nadal left Monfils with three break points. The first was saved but Monfils took the second with a bit of help from the net to lead 3-2. An excellent hold for the Frenchman was sealed with a forehand winner to extend the lead.  

Nadal makes his way into the quarterfinals (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Nadal makes his way into the quarterfinals (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Better signs followed for Nadal as he fired an incredible forehand down the line winner from outside of the tramlines to come through an impressive hold. The Spaniard then took advantage of a dip in concentration from his opponent, taking the break back with a backhand crosscourt winner. A love hold followed for Nadal with some sloppy errors from Monfils taking the Spaniard back into the lead at 5-4.  

Great serving from Monfils took him 30-0 ahead but forced errors at the next gave Nadal the next three points, bringing up a match point for the Spaniard. A brutal forehand winner from Monfils saved it and brought them to deuce. A double fault gave Nadal a second match point and this time a backhand error from the Frenchman gave Nadal the fourth set 6-4 and a place in the quarterfinals.