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Nadal battles through epic first-set tiebreaker against Mannarino, will meet Shapovalov in Australian Open quarters

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal beat Adrian Mannarino in straight sets, as almost everyone expected.

But the first set of their Australian Open fourth-round match on Sunday afternoon was anything but straightforward.

Twelve consecutive service holds led to a tiebreaker for the ages. It featured wild momentum swings, incredible rallies, and a total of 11 set points — seven for Nadal and four for Mannarino. At 28 minutes and 40 seconds, the tiebreaker alone last longer than the entire match between Jarkko Nieminen and Bernard Tomic at the 2014 Miami Masters.

The highlights — of which there were many — came with Nadal leading at 5-4 and 9-8. On the 10th point of the ‘breaker, the sixth-ranked Spaniard produced a ridiculous on-the-run forehand pass. Mannarino promptly saved set points at 4-6 and 5-6 before fighting off another at 6-7. At 8-9, an amazing exchange from the back of the court ended with the Frenchman firing a forehand winner that clipped the back of the baseline.

It finally ended on the 15-14 point, when Nadal scrambled to track down a drop-shot, correctly guessed which way Mannarino was going with the next shot, and answered with a swing forehand volley that Mannarino could not handle at the net.

“The first set [was] very, very emotional,” Nadal reflected afterward. “Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end. Everybody knows how mentally [tough] this game is. It was a tough one, and after that crazy first set I think it was so important the break at the beginning of the second set.”

The 2009 Australian Open champion would break many more times, racing away from Mannarino for a 7-6(14), 6-2, 6-2 victory after two hours and 40 minutes.

Next up Nadal is Denis Shapovalov, who took down Alexander Zverev in convincing 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 fashion. Shapovalov is 1-3 lifetime against the 35-year-old, with a stunning upset at the 2017 Montreal Masters when he was just 18 years old followed by losses in 2018, 2019, and 2021.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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