Nick Kyrgios finds his purpose, Carla Suarez Navarro is hero of the day - Diary

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Following his close 7-6 (3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) defeat to Grigor Dimitrov in the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday, Nick Kyrgios was told that American legend John McEnroe said that was the most he’d ever seen him fight in a match.

“I mean, can’t argue with that,” Kyrgios said with a smile.

The 22-year-old Kyrgios is used to hearing criticism from McEnroe, who has never been easy on him when he’s commentating any of his matches. But it seems Kyrgios has managed to sway the opinion of one of his harshest sceptics and of course, the young Aussie is happy to take the compliment.

Although he lost on Sunday, Kyrgios can walk away from Melbourne proud of his Australian summer. He started 2018 by winning seven matches in a row, four on his way to the Brisbane title, and three at Melbourne Park this fortnight.

He went down fighting against Dimitrov and generally exhibited a much improved attitude throughout the month Down Under. He maintained his focus during the matches, and the most telling part was how he dealt with his frustrations.

In his thriller with Dimitrov, he netted a simple overhead smash to get broken and give the Bulgarian the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set. Instead of losing the plot, he broke back and took the set to a tiebreak.

From a physical standpoint, Kyrgios also appears to be taking care of his body better than in the past. Despite a knee problem that bothered him since Brisbane, he managed to be competitive through all his matches and said he was prepared to play a fifth set against Dimitrov if he had succeeded in taking that fourth-set tiebreak.

“I feel confident. You know, I still feel confident after losing that match,” said Kyrgios on Sunday. “I feel like I have more of a vision and goal for this year. I think I’m in a good head space.”

He finally looks and sounds like a talented individual with a purpose.

He’s still not keen on hiring a coach though.

“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he was thinking of bringing someone on board. “You know, I feel like I have lost one match this year, so I’m doing alright.”

For Kyrgios, it’s more about progress rather than an all-out transformation. He’s still doing things his way. You wonder that if he doesn’t, he wouldn’t be able to dazzle on the court the way he does.

Before his fourth round on Sunday, Kyrgios was reportedly hitting some balls with a cancer patient – something he apparently has been doing all week in Melbourne. That’s hardly how other players would choose to prepare for a huge match but again, he likes doing things his way, and he’s finding motivation and peace in reaching out to others.

“I just do my thing. I play the game and I play the game the way I want it to be played. I don’t follow, I don’t really idolise anything or follow anyone. I just do my own thing,” is how Kyrgios signed off from Melbourne on Sunday.

Next up for him his Davis Cup, where he feels at home with his Aussie crew. The real test will come after that. Finding the fire to keep going all season. Something tells me it won’t be a problem for him this year.

HERO OF THE DAY

Carla Suarez Navarro looked like she was ready to pack her bags and leave Melbourne when she trailed an on-fire Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 1-4 in the fourth round on Sunday. But the Spaniard pegged her opponent back and ended up winning 8-6 in the third set to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for a third time.

STATS OF THE DAY

1 – Elina Svitolina is the first Ukrainian woman to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

6 – Following his victory over Kyrgios, Dimitrov is now 6-2 win-loss against players at their home Grand Slams.

8 – Grand Slam quarter-finals Marin Cilic has reached in his last 16 Grand Slams.

10 – Australian Open quarter-finals reached by Rafael Nadal, which puts him joint-second with Stefan Edberg on the Open Era list of most last-eight appearances in Melbourne.

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“He’s extremely, extremely talented, if not the most talented player out there… I love competing against him. I know it’s frustrating at times, very frustrating, but in the same time, you know, it’s for the love of the game, and I love the game.”

— Dimitrov on Kyrgios.

“I just told him to believe in himself. Sometimes I think he lacks a bit of belief. But I think he’s got the game and he’s proved to everyone that he can win one of these Slams. So I just told him to believe himself and hopefully he can go all the way.”

— Kyrgios on what he told Dimitrov at the net.

“I think he’s really aggressive every time. He can play four hours aggressive. He can play four hours really, really intensive. Is not easy for me. For example, in the court four hours, trying to run every point, trying to do winners every point, is not easy to be focused four hours against him. He can do easy. And I think that is the best thing from him.”

— Diego Schwartzman on the challenge of taking on Nadal.

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Rafael Nadal looking forward to 'beautiful match' against Marin Cilic, overcomes Diego Schwartzman in fourth round

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Rafael Nadal described his upcoming quarter-final against Marin Cilic as a “beautiful match” after he overcame Diego Schwartzman in a near-four-hour tussle in humid conditions at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Nadal posted a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 win over the tricky Argentine to reach his 10th quarter-final in Melbourne and move to second place alongside Stefan Edberg on the Open Era list of most appearances in the Australian Open last-eight. Only Roger Federer has reached more as the Swiss looks to make his 14th quarter-final when he takes on Marton Fucsovics in round four on Monday.

The victory also means Nadal will remain at No. 1 following the Australian Open, which would extend his reign at the top of the rankings to 166 weeks in total.

Nadal admits his clash with Schwartzman was the toughest he’s endured so far this year.

“Was a good test, and at the same time, I prefer to win in two hours than in four. But being honest, too, moments like this helps to be more confident in yourself, in your body,” said the 31-year-old.

“I resisted very well. Very happy. Very proud about the third and fourth set, because situation was not easy for me, and I was able to hold my serve all the time. Sometimes with saving tough moments.

“But I played with determination, and that’s what I gonna need, and I gonna need to serve well. I’m going to need to play with more determination with my forehand in the next match. I am focusing on trying to make it.”

Cilic, the No. 6 seed has been flying under the radar but has produced four strong victories en route to the quarter-finals, his latest a 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (3) over 10th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday.

The Croatian has now made eight quarter-finals in his last 16 Grand Slams and is into the last-eight in Melbourne for the first time since 2010.

“Against Marin will be a tough one, but at the same time, is a beautiful match to play against a great player,” said Nadal, who leads their head-to-head 5-1.

Cilic’s win over Carreno Busta was gave him his 100th match victory at a Grand Slam.

The 29-year-old, who was a runner-up at Wimbledon last year, is pleased with his level despite some inconsistency over the four sets.

“Difficult. I should have won the first. I should have lost the third. I should have won quicker the fourth. So it was up and down a lot. It was difficult match,” said Cilic of his showdown with Spain’s Carreno Busta.

Looking ahead to his quarter-final against Nadal, Cilic said: “Throughout my career, I knew that if I’m playing well, if I’m top of my game, that I can challenge most of the guys on the tour and, you know, with the win at the US Open that, you know, I believe it just became stronger.

“I know I believe in my own game, I believe in what I’m doing. I think I’m moving the right direction. You know, it’s obviously a big challenge playing them, but that’s what we also work for on the trainings.”

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Caroline Wozniacki proud of her 'tweener' in straight-sets rout of Magdalena Rybarikova

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Caroline Wozniacki is not thinking about a first Grand Slam title, saying there’s still “a long way to go” after storming into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday.

The world No. 2 handed out a tennis masterclass to 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-0 in 63 minutes of mesmerising shot-making on Rod Laver Arena.

Angelique Kerber is the only Grand Slam champion remaining in the draw meaning Wozniacki may never have a better chance to get off the mark.

But the Dane was in no mood to think about breaking her duck with an Australian Open title, nine years after making her first major final at the US Open.

“No,” she replied when asked by reporters if she could see her hands on the trophy yet. “I just play one match at a time.

“We’ve played four matches so far. There’s still three to go. There’s still a long way to go. So I really just focus on the task ahead of me.”

Wozniacki conceded an early break to go 1-2 down but then rattled off 11 of the next 12 games to complete a humiliating rout of the 19th seed.

“She really mixes up the pace, I just tried to calm down, get my returns in and wait for the opportunities to attack,” she said after a ruthless crushing of the Slovak.

“I think you can tell my confidence is pretty good at the moment.”

Rybarikova had a breakout year in 2017 as she reached her first Slam semi-final and got into the world’s top 20.

But she was given a tennis lesson by the Dane, who won 11 consecutive points to close out the first set and sprint into a 2-0 lead in the second.

A rampant Wozniacki even successfully attempted a rare “tweener” back between her legs to retrieve a lob.

“That’s the first time in a match. So if I may say so myself, I was pretty proud of that,” she said. “I’m admiring myself right there.

“I’m sorry. But you know, I’ve made a few tweeners in practice. But never in a match. And even in practice sometimes I make a fool out of myself. So when that went in I was like, OK, I’m done.”

Wozniacki has only dropped one set in the tournament but was perilously close to going out at 1-5, 15-40 in the third set to Jana Fett in their second round encounter.

“I think being almost out of the tournament, you have nothing to lose after that,” said Wozniacki, reflecting on saving two match points.

“I played really well from being down 5-1. Since then I’ve just kept that going basically.”

She will face the unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro from Spain for a place in the semi-finals and leads their head-to-head series 5-2, with both the Spaniard’s wins coming on clay.

“Obviously hard courts is a little different,” said Wozniacki. “But we’ve had a lot of tough encounters on hard courts as well. I’m expecting a great fight and some really good tennis.”


Suarez Navarro looked down and out in her fourth round against No. 32 seed Anett Kontaveit, who went up 6-4, 4-1 before the Spaniard struck back. Suarez Navarro, who was ranked No. 6 in the world two years ago before getting hampered by injuries ended up defeating the Estonian 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in two hours and 17 minutes.

“I just tried to be more aggressive. I was thinking that I was playing good, but not too long, not too aggressive. I want to play like this, but sometimes you cannot,” said Suarez Navarro of what she changed to turn the match around.

” My team all the time they will say me, Play aggressive, play aggressive. That’s I think what I did.”

The 29-year-old will be featuring in her third Australian Open quarter-final (2009, 2016, 2018).

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