World number one Rafael Nadal weathered a fierce storm from gutsy showman Nick Kyrgios while Stan Wawrinka turned back the clock in a vintage performance to stun world number four Daniil Medvedev. Fifth seed Dominic Thiem and seventh seed Alexander, meanwhile, cruised into their first quarter-finals in Melbourne with straight sets wins.
The Spanish top seed came through a riveting clash on Rod Laver Arena 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4) to end the gallant hopes of the Australian, who came on court wearing an LA Lakers shirt in honour of Kobe Bryant.
Former Australian Open champion Wawrinka, who beat Nadal in the 2014 final, dug deep to come from behind in five intense sets and win 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2.
Zverev ended the hot streak of his close friend Andrey Rublev of Russia, breaking once in each set for a clinical 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win in just an hour and 37 minutes while Thiem, two-time Roland Garros finalist proved too wily for Gael Monfils, crushing him 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
Stan, the man
Three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka has not won a title since pocketing the 16th of his career on the Geneva clay in 2017, with two bouts of surgery on his left knee pushing him to the brink of retirement.
A lengthy absence from the tour meant his world ranking plunged, but he has climbed back to world number 15 after runs last year to the last eight at Roland Garros and the US Open.
Beating Medvedev brought up another milestone in Wawrinka’s illustrious career – it was his 300th Tour-level win.
It was classic Wawrinka in the first set, with the 34-year-old playing some of his best tennis in a long time.
He broke to go 3-1 in front and then again to take the set in 32 minutes of precision and power, with the Russian struggling to match him around the court.
But Medvedev came roaring back to break and take a 3-1 lead in the second set as Wawrinka lost his range, breaking again to take the set in emphatic fashion.
The 23-year-old built on his advantage early in the third set, with his serve making life hard for Wawrinka who struggled to create chances and had trouble applying the finishing touch at the net.
In contrast, Medvedev was hitting winners and broke for 4-3 before sealing the set.
They traded blows in a tight fourth set, desperately arm-wrestling for the edge with a tiebreaker needed and Wawrinka showing his experience to prevail and send it to a deciding set, where the writing was on the wall.
Medvedev had played five career five-setters and lost them all, while veteran Wawrinka had 50 under his belt and a 28-22 record.
He turned the screws, breaking the Russian’s opening service game then staving off three break points to go 3-1 in front, with no way back for the fourth seed.
Good show by Thiem
Thiem has long had the measure of Monfils, winning all five of their previous encounters, and the 10th seed had no answers on a hot Melbourne day, making 32 unforced errors.
“I played my best match so far, I had a good feeling,” said Thiem, the first player from Austria to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park since Stefan Koubek in 2002.
“But the score looks much easier than the match was. I always play my best tennis against Gael.”
Monfils is a nine-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist but only one of them came in Melbourne and he never looked like reaching a second.
The Austrian, targeting a maiden Grand Slam crown, went a break up for 2-1 in the opening set and then grabbed another as Monfils struggled to deal with Thiem’s accurate and varied first serve.
With Thiem pressing hard again in the second set, Monfils tried an underarm serve at 40-30 in game three. It worked, catching the Austrian off-guard.
But it only delayed the inevitable. With Monfils appearing to struggle in the heat, Thiem created four break points in game seven and the Frenchman finally succumbed by missing an easy net volley.
The third set followed a similar pattern with Thiem breaking early and quickly completing a routine victory.
With AFP inputs