LONDON: Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon on Monday, staying on course for a crucial encounter with Nick Kyrgios, who showed his best behavior in a victory in five sets.
In the women’s competition, 2019 champion Simona Halep demolished Spain’s fourth seed Paula Badosa in just 60 minutes to set up a meeting with Amanda Anisimova.
Nadal, chasing a rare Grand Slam schedule, started his All England Club campaign slowly but is now on the pace as he chases a third Wimbledon crown.
He showed no mercy to Dutch 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp in their evening clash on center court, overcoming a late swing to seal a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (8 /6).
“I think I continued in a positive way until the end where I played a bad game,” said the second-seeded Spain.
“In a personal way, for me to be able to be in the quarter-finals after three years (away from Wimbledon), it’s amazing for me, so very, very happy.”
Nadal broke his opponent five times in the match, capitalizing on his fourth match point to reach the Wimbledon quarters for the eighth time.
If the 22-time Grand Slam champion beats 11th seed Taylor Fritz and Kyrgios overtakes Chilean Cristian Garin, they will meet in a tantalizing semi-final on Friday.
Kyrgios shrugged off a shoulder injury earlier to beat American player Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-2.
The sniper Australian was a changed man just two days after his stormy third-round win over Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Kyrgios looked to be in trouble when Nakashima broke for 4-3 in the fourth and took the set thanks to a lazy service game from Kyrgios.
But he rallied around the decider, topping the 100 aces mark for the tournament and breaking twice to secure victory.
Kyrgios, who needed regular physical treatment, hammered 79 winners, including 35 aces.
The last time the 40th-ranked player reached the last eight at a major tournament was at the Australian Open in 2015, a year after reaching the same stage on his debut for the All England Club.
But he is seen as a major threat to Nadal, whom he beat en route to the quarter-finals in 2014.
The Australian, 27, said he was trying to stay “in the moment”.
“I’m not thinking about lifting a trophy or making semi-finals or making the final,” he said.
“I just think about my habits every day, just trying to put in a good performance on the pitch and then do a good training session, try to stay positive, try to really separate myself.
“You know, once I’m off the field, hang out with my team, my girlfriend, and really enjoy it, then get into game mode.”
Unranked Garin pulled off a stunning comeback against Australian Alex de Minaur, whom he had never beaten before.
The Chilean recovered from two sets and saved two match points in the fifth set to beat the 19th seed in a grueling competition lasting four hours and 34 minutes.
American Fritz, who beat Nadal in the Indian Wells final earlier this year, overtook Australian qualifier Jason Kubler for the loss by just eight games.
Former world No. 1 Halep looks increasingly dangerous as she majestically strides towards a second Wimbledon crown in a draw now short of big names.
The Romanian’s match against Badosa looked tricky on paper but turned out to be anything but, with the 16th seed 6-1, 6-2.
Halep, who is yet to drop a set at Wimbledon this year, will face Anisimova of the United States for a place in the semifinals.
Anisovova, seeded 20, ended the dream run of French player Harmony Tan, who shocked Serena Williams in her opener, winning 6-2, 6-3.
Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina beat Croatia’s Petra Martic in straight sets and will face Ajla Tomljanovic after the Australian ended the run for veteran Frenchman Alize Cornet.
Earlier, Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton said tournament bosses had appealed against fines imposed by the WTA Women’s Tour for bans on Russian and Belarusian players.
The All England Club imposed the sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and players were also barred from participating in Wimbledon warm-up events.
The men’s ATP Tour and WTA reacted to the Wimbledon ban by stripping the Grand Slam of ranking points.