A RUFFLED Rafa Nadal fumed after being called for multiple time violations but composed himself to fend off a gallant Kei Nishikori and reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a tense 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) win.
Nadal’s fidgeting, shorts-tugging preparation before serves is a famous quirk of the Spaniard’s game, but it fell foul of watchful Greek umpire Evanthia Asderaki, and at exactly the wrong moment.
With the third set locked at 4-4 and deuce, the world No 1’s breach of the 20-second time limit led to a forfeit of his first serve and he threw away the ball in disgust in a rare loss of composure at Rod Laver Arena. Nishikori duly won the next two points to capture the break and leave the Spaniard muttering as he trudged back to his chair, throwing a withering look at Asderaki.
Clearly fired up, Nadal struck back in the next game to put the match back on serve and punished the profligate Nishikori in the tiebreak to set up a quarter-final against red-hot 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov.
Nadal later complained that he had been given no warning before being slapped with the second time violation. “The rules say you can do it, but in my opinion that goes against the show, that goes against the fans,” the top seed told reporters after closing out an attritional match in three hours and 16 minutes.
Dimitrov continued to blossom at his breakthrough grand slam with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut. The Bulgarian, who has made it further in the tournament than girlfriend Maria Sharapova, said: “I’m really happy to be out there in the quarter-finals but I’m not even close to satisfaction.”
Nadal has won all their three previous matches but each of them has been close.
“I had tough battles with him in the past,” said Dimitrov. “There were always little things missing. But I’m quite happy with the way I’m performing.”