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Nadal survives Monfils fightback

Rafa Nadal reacts after his victory over Gael Monfils, yesterday.

Rafa Nadal reacts after his victory over Gael Monfils, yesterday.

Rafa Nadal returned to the grand slam big-time by fending off Gael Monfils 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4 in a tense clash yesterday to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Former champion Nadal had not reached the last eight in a major since the 2015 French Open, so he celebrated wildly after closing out the two-hour 56-minute clash at a packed Rod Laver Arena.

It was not the most convincing of wins for the 30-year-old Spaniard, who was rattled when Monfils rallied in the fourth set, but the 14-times grand slam champion was clinical when it counted to keep his pursuit of a 15th major title alive.

Nadal will meet Milos Raonic for a place in the semi-finals.

The third seed came safely through a potentially tricky match against Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 3-6 6-4 6-1 to reach the last eight in Melbourne for the third straight year.

Raonic, the highest surviving seed after the early departures of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, stamped his authority on a sometimes tempestuous match by breaking the Spanish world number 13 to win the third set.

Teak tough Bautista Agut is nothing if not a fighter but Raonic, who said he had been suffering from a fever after his third-round match, raced away with the fourth set to seal the victory with a forehand winner down the line.

The 26-year-old fired down 33 aces and 75 winners in the two hour, 52 minute contest as he continues his quest for a maiden grand slam title.

Grigor Dimitrov reached his first grand slam quarter-final in over two years by defeating an injury-hampered Denis Istomin 2-6 7-6 6-2 6-1 to end the Uzbek wildcard’s fairytale run.

Istomin, who knocked out six-times champion Djokovic in the second round, laboured with a hip injury after taking the first set and 15th seed Dimitrov took full advantage at Margaret Court Arena.

The Bulgarian shook Istomin’s hand warmly upon the win and might as well have.

After all, the 117th-ranked 30-year-old had paved a gold-bricked path by eliminating favourite Djokovic, giving Dimitrov his best hope of a grand slam semi-final since his dream run at Wimbledon in 2014.

Dimitrov will next meet 11th seed David Goffin.

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