January 27, 2020
Rafael Nadal will face Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open quarter-finals after he defeated Nick Kyrgios on an emotional day for world sport.
The level of tennis was extraordinary.
And the respect between the two feisty rivals was only fitting on the day the world mourned the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter.
Kyrgios was in tears about that tragic loss but remained determined to contribute to a poignant occasion.
Ultimately the match went the same way as their clash at Wimbledon.
Nadal prevailed in four sets with the help of two thrilling tie-breaks.
Even though Rafa faltered when serving for the match at 5-4, he insists that he is ‘moving in the right direction’ with his tennis at this tournament.
And that should serve as an ominous warning to Thiem, the man he seems to beat regularly in the showpiece at Roland Garros.
Nadal is on the charge.
But if you were looking for a burst of jaw-dropping, explosive brilliance from a master of his trade, perhaps no one quite matched the magic of Stan Wawrinka’s final set against a shell-shocked Daniil Medvedev.
It was their first meeting.
And Stan The Man simply blew the shell-shocked Russian away when it mattered in the decider.
Suddenly the greatest one-handed backhand the world has ever seen was in full flow.
The sizzling, low trajectory of those destructive missiles was something to behold.
But Wawrinka’s forehand was a formidable weapon too as he rolled back the years and could do no wrong.
Medvedev didn’t know what had hit him.
And we all quickly remembered why Wawrinka has won every Grand Slam apart from Wimbledon.
Stan will play Sascha Zverev in the quarter-finals. That should be an interesting test of the German’s nerve.
And another great star who used to be feared is back on song.
Watch out for Garbine Muguruza!
She swept aside Kiki Bertens with an awesome display of power. And Muguruza seems completely rejuvenated under the guidance of Conchita Martinez.
Garbine will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova next. Her victory over former champion Angelique Kerber underlined the rising star’s excellence.
But Muguruza joins Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova as the four biggest contenders for the women’s title now.
And either Barty or Kvitova must soon fall. They play each other next in yet another much-anticipated showdown in marvellous Melbourne.