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Despite spending four hours and 38 minutes on court in his third-round upset of 2021 semifinalist Aslan Karatsev, the 33-year-old Frenchman looked a little fresher and sharper than Nadal at the outset.

Mannarino gained the first break point of the match in the 11th game. Nadal spun a slider serve out wide to save it, eventually navigating a seven-minute hold for a 6-5 lead.

The set escalated into a topsy-turvy tiebreaker that saw both men earn multiple set points.

In a thrilling tiebreaker that spanned 28 minutes 40 seconds the pair pushed each other all over the court in dizzying rallies. Mannarino saved set points at 4-6, 5-6 and 6-7 before Nadal denied set point at 7-8.

On Nadal’s fourth set point a riveting rally reached 25 shots as Nadal lifted a full-stretch flick lob that landed on the line. Mannarino got it back then pasted a running forehand off the baseline leveling at 9-all and sending Rod Laver Arena fans into a frenzy.

Staring down a second set point, Nadal tapped a tame drop shot. Mannarino was up to the ball quickly and could have ended the set, but Nadal read his reply and knocked a stretch backhand down the line for 12-12. That exchange left Mannarino leaning on his black-and-yellow Babolat racquet as if it were a cane. Nadal saved a third set point whipping a forehand down the line forging a 13-13 tie.

On his seventh set point, Nadal looked out of position but held his ground for the Frenchman’s approach and slashed a swing volley that Mannarino could not handle finally ending the near 29-minute breaker with a furious fist pump.

After an adventurous 81-minute opening set, Nadal’s purple shirt was saturated to his skin as if he’d been dipped in the Yarra River. Nadal left the court for a clothing change, while a weary Mannarino sat on his court-side seat after a punishing first set.

Turning his hips and shoulders into his shots, Nadal was swinging more freely when he broke to start the second set.

An energized Nadal raced up to a net-cord shot and knifed a backhand winner into the corner gaining the double break and a 4-1 second-set lead. Mannarino, who had dictated play for stretches of the opening set, was looking a half-step slower to the ball and sometimes lunging for shots after that depleting first set.

After Mannarino held for 2-5 he called for the trainer and took a couple of tablets before resuming the battle. There was no remedy for Nadal’s onslaught.

The sixth-seeded Spaniard spun a forehand into the corner snatching a two-set lead after two hours.

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The 2009 champion turned up the torment creating five break points to start the third set. Nadal broke for 1-0 when Mannarino shoveled a forehand into net. Nadal’s focus dipped a bit as he double-faulted the break right back at love.

Pacing more methodically between points, Mannarino lifted a drop shot but Nadal raced up to the ball blocked it back and broke when the Frenchman failed to find the court.

"Honestly in this tournament I think I have been in a very good position to fight for it a lot of times in my career," Nadal said. "I always enjoyed a lot playing here. It’s true that I have been a little bit unlucky with injuries and sometimes I was unlucky because the opponent was better than me, but in general terms I enjoy very emotional matches here.

"So I am very very happy to be back in quarterfinals. It means a lot to me."

Nadal, who warmed up for the AO winning his 89th career title at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament, slashed his 16th ace to close a two hour, 40-minute match in style.

Source : http://tennisnow.com/News/2022/January/Nadal-Outmuscles-Mannarino,-Into-14th-AO-Quarterfi.aspx

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