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After a tiebreak for the ages, Rafael Nadal outlasts Adrian Mannarino in Melbourne
The 20-time Grand Slam winner clinched a 28-minute tiebreak—the longest of his career—on his way to the quarterfinals.
Published Jan 23, 2022
MATCH POINT: Rafael Nadal defeats Adrian Mannarino in an epic fourth-round clash—including a 28-minute opening tiebreak—at the 2022 Australian Open.
Nearly thirty minutes. That’s how long it took for Rafael Nadal to finally put away an inspired Adrian Mannarino in an unforgettable first-set tiebreak at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The 2009 champion needed seven set points—and had to save four of his own—to win a hour-and-22-minute long opening set 7-6(14), with 28 of those minutes making up the marathon tiebreak alone.
“The first set has been very, very emotional. I was a little bit lucky at the end. I had my chances, but he had a lot of chances too. Everybody knows how mental is this game,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “After that crazy first set, it was so important [to get] the break at the beginning of the second.
“I am very happy that I survived that first set, without a doubt."
Nadal went on to close out the match at the expense of just four games, sealing a place into the quarterfinals with a 7-6(14), 6-2, 6-2 scoreline on Rod Laver Arena. He will next face No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov in the last eight, after the Canadian upset No. 3 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3.
The Spaniard struggled to make an impact on Mannarino’s serve throughout a tight opening set. Nadal hung back deep behind the baseline, and saved a break point at 5-5 as the Frenchman kept him under pressure. Neither managed to nab a crucial break of serve, and after 54 minutes they marched into a first-set tiebreak.
But little did they know, they were just getting started.
Nadal raced ahead to an early lead, and he held his first set point at 6-4— he would need six more to get the job done as Mannarino refused to fade away. Mannarino fought his way back, and the momentum in the tiebreak swung firmly back in his favor as both players came up with spectacular shotmaking to stay in the contest.
He faced set point at 7-8, 11-12, 12-13 and 13-14, but found a way to escape, and closed out the 28-minute tiebreak—the longest of his career— at 16-14 after nailing a cross-court passing shot that Mannarino sent wide.
With the first-set sorted in epic fashion, Nadal maintained his high level across the second and third sets. Nadal tallied 42 winners, including 16 aces, and won 86 percent of points behind his first serve en route to victory.
Nadal is seeking his 21st Grand Slam title—but only his second one at the Australian Open, way back when he captured the 2009 title. It’s a lopsided stat that has been much talked about this week, and the Spaniard addressed his Melbourne drought ahead of his clash with Mannarino.
"I think during the years I needed to adapt a little bit my game to [hardcourts] because I had a lot of problems, physical problems. So I needed to find ways to be competitive and to play sometimes more aggressive, because I was not able to move like in the beginning,” Nadal explained.
"I improved my serve, I improved my return, my position on court, a little bit the understanding. I probably understand better the game on hard later in my career than in the beginning."
Additional reporting by Matt Cronin.