Nadal holds off rising talent Zverev to reach last 16

Rafa Nadal hits a shot against Alexander Zverev.

Rafa Nadal hits a shot against Alexander Zverev.

Rafa Nadal held off a fierce challenge from one of the hottest prospects in the game when he outlasted German teenager Alexander Zverev 4-6 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Australian Open yesterday.

The Spaniard, champion here in 2009, needed to be at his resilient best to come out on top after more than four hours of top quality shot-making and thrilling rallies which earned both players a huge ovation from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.

The 19-year-old Zverev showed in spades why many consider him a future grand slam champion but was just unable to stay with the uber-fit 30-year-old in a gripping deciding set.

“Everybody knows how good Alexander is, he’s the future of our sport and the present too,” said Nadal, who reached the fourth round for the 10th time in 12 appearances at Melbourne Park.

“Today was a great battle, I am very happy to be through. It was an important result for me as I’ve lost my last couple of matches in the fifth.”

Nadal will next face Frenchman Gael Monfils who brushed aside Philip Kohlschreiber, of Germany, in straight sets.

Milos Raonic’s machine-like advance suffered a brief glitch against Gilles Simon but the Canadian re-booted to delete the dogged Frenchman 6-2 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3.

Third seed Raonic lost his first set of the tournament and his composure against the indefatigable Simon, whose hard running and passing shots threatened to turn the game on its head at a heaving Hisense Arena.

Raonic drowned out the Gallic cheers by capturing the decisive break in the sixth game of the final set and sealed the match with a big kicking serve that Simon could only parry into the net.

Britain’s Johanna Konta firmed up as one of the  title favourites when she powered into the fourth round, comfortably seeing off former world number one Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-1 on Margaret Court Arena.

The ninth seed, who is yet to drop a set in the tournament, broke the Dane midway through the first set with a smoking drop shot and never looked back, keeping the pressure up throughout the contest.

The 25-year-old will next face Ekaterina Makarova as she continues her quest to give Britain its first women’s grand slam singles champion in four decades.

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