Rafael Nadal outclassed Fabio Fognini to close in on the all-time Grand Slam titles record on Monday as Ashleigh Barty ramped up hopes of becoming the Australian Open’s first home winner in 43 years.
Nadal said his lower-back stiffness was continuing to improve after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 against the flamboyant Italian, which set up a quarterfinal against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
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Fognini had registered a five-set win over Nadal at the 2015 US Open, but the Spaniard cantered to victory after recovering from 2-4 down in the second set.
Nadal is now into his 43rd Grand Slam quarterfinal, staying on course for a title match with eight-time winner Novak Djokovic who battled through an abdominal injury to reach the last eight on Sunday.
“I’m happy to be in the quarterfinals today — that means a lot to me, it’s positive stuff,” said Nadal, who is level with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles.
Barty won 6-3, 6-4 to go into the quarterfinals without dropping a set as she bids to become the first Australian champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
The former French Open champion next plays Karolina Muchova, who came through two tight sets to beat Belgium’s Elise Mertens 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.