AO 2022 Day 7: Barty, Monfils and Nadal shine

A sizzling Sunday served up the opening quarter final tickets at Melbourne Park.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It’s officially the half way point of Australian Open 2022 and what a ride it’s been.

Now it’s the business end at Melbourne Park. Who can seize the initiative and continue their quest into the quarter-finals.

Here are some of the key headlines from Down Under on Day 7…

Nadal activates beast mode 

Simply wow! The opening set tie-break between 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino was one of the best of modern times.

Nadal saved four set points before converting his seventh after 28 hot-shot laden minutes. One forehand cross court passing shot was struck pretty much from the back board, the level was sensational. The celebrations of pedalling clench fists said it all. 

The longest tie-break of the world No.5’s career propelled the Spaniard towards glory.

“First set have been very, very emotional. Anything could have happened there. I was little bit lucky out there and I had my chances, but then he had a lot of chances too. Everybody knows how mentally is this game. I am very happy that I survived that crazy first set without a doubt,” reflected the 13-time Roland-Garros winner.

“I always enjoyed very, very emotional matches here and now so I'm very, very happy to be back in quarterfinal, means a lot to me.”

The 2009 champion posted 7-6(14), 6-2, 6-2 on the scoreboard to reach the last eight for a 14th time, where he’ll meet 14th seed Denis Shapovalov.

The Canadian nullified the threat of world No.3 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 to chalk up just his second ever Top 5 triumph, which was against Nadal in 2017.

“It’s always an honour to go up against Rafa. It’s always fun, it’s always going to be a battle. It’s going to be a tough one but definitely gonna enjoy it.”

Barty edging closer to home glory 

Amanda Anisimova had fought back to down defending champion Naomi Osaka two days ago, but the American was unable to derail a cool, calm and collected world No.1 Ash Barty.

The home taliswoman returned to the quarter-finals 6-4, 6-3 with an assured performance on Rod Laver Arena

The consecutive run of service holds may have ended at 63, but the Australian bounced back immediately from 0-2 in the second set to soak up another standing ovation. 

“I'm tested every single match in different ways, I know Amanda has played some really good tennis over the last couple of weeks, is obviously feeling really confident on these courts,” said Barty. “Felt like I hit the ball well and was able to control it and put it in areas I wanted to today.

The top seed’s reward is a clash with 21st seed Jessica Pegula, who scored an impressive 7-6(0), 6-3 triumph over world No.8 Maria Sakkari. 

“I remember we played in the bullring (court) in Paris,” recalled Barty, who ignited her 2019 Roland-Garros title tilt 6-3, 6-3 over the American in the first round.

“Jess is able to control the baseline. She's able to take time away from you, take balls particularly off her backhand. She loves these courts, she made a quarter here last year. The last couple years her progression and her confidence with the way that she plays has gone and absolutely skyrocketed.

“One of her best attributes is the fact that she can compete point in, point out, and irrelevant of the score she's able to turn up time and time again. We just have to compete, go out there and have fun and see how we go.”

Gaël Monfils Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Monfils and Berrettini reunited

“We’re not quite finished yet.”

A determined and steely focused Gaël Monfils has returned to the quarter-finals with a blazing 7-5 7-6(4) 6-3 victory over Serbian youngster Miomir Kecmanovic.

The acrobatic Frenchman hasn’t dropped a set yet at Melbourne Park, boosted by his title run at Adelaide earlier this month. “Good Gaël” is in the zone, clattering down 54 winners to earn an enticing encounter with world No.7 Matteo Berrettini

"It's been a long journey for me and I'm quite happy, but it's not finished. I want to do better and I will try. It's gonna be a tough match no matter what, but I'll be ready.”

Berrettini’s sledgehammer serve dismissed 19th seed Pablo Carreño Busta 7-5 7-6(4) 6-4 off the back of 28 aces.

Monfils and Berrettini became embroiled in a modern-day classic in the 2019 US Open last eight, the Italian prevailing in five sets after four hours. Both players are expecting another stellar battle.

“Talk about long matches, I think the emotions were all over the place for me and for him,” reflected the Italian. “He’s playing good, I’m feeling good, so for sure is going to be a fight.”

Keys keeps on rolling

The recent Adelaide champion dismissed the Sydney champion. Madison Keys continued her astonishing start to the season with a scorching 6-3, 6-1 victory over eighth seed Paula Badosa.

Keys was locked in from the very start, launching down 26 winners to advance to her eighth Grand Slam quarter-final and first in Australia since 2018.

Banishing the “dark clouds” of last season, the American will take her reinvigorated game to face Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova.

"I think she's kind of just making tennis look easy. It seems like no matter what people are doing, she very quickly figures it out and has another game plan to quickly implement," stated the world No.51 American.

"Then I think the other thing about her is that she's also an incredible doubles player. She moves forward so naturally that I feel like if you give her the opportunity, she's just on top of you all of a sudden. An incredibly difficult matchup."

Having fallen in qualifying five successive times and then into the second round in 2020-21, Krejcikova continued her career-best Australian Open with a knockout performance to defeat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2.

“I really respect Vika. I think Rod Laver Arena is like her living room. She's really experienced on that court. For me it means a lot, it's really special,” claimed Krejcikova, firing down 23 winners.

“It really gives me a lot of power for my next matches to keep going and keep improving as a tennis player."