Rafael Nadal says his five-set win against Alexander Zverev has given him a huge boost of confidence for the rest of the Australian Open.
Nadal, pictured, defied doubts about both his fitness and form during a pulsating four-hour contest in the Rod Laver Arena, at the end of which he had beaten the talented Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2.
The Spaniard will now continue his pursuit of a 15th grand slam title against France’s sixth seed Gael Monfils.
When the final point was won, Nadal thrashed his arms in delight as the 30-year-old moved into the last 16 of a grand slam for only the second time in six attempts.
More than just his progress, however, this victory could do wonders for self-belief given Nadal, back from another injury lay-off, had lost his last three five-setters at major tournaments.
“For the confidence, for a lot of things, it is very important to win these kind of matches,” Nadal said.
“I worked a lot during all December to have the chances to compete well in these kind of moments. Even if I start the match with some nerves, I think I was able to came back well.”
Zverev showed why he is considered a multiple grand slam winner of the future but the 19-year-old looked to be struggling with cramp at the end, as Nadal twice came from a set down to go through.
Asked how he won, Nadal said: “By fighting. And by running a lot. I think everybody knows how good Alexander now is.”
Zverev came into the match having won four out of his last five meetings against top-10 players, although he is yet to do so at a grand slam.
The world No 24, however, pushed Nadal all the way in Melbourne and believes he is closing in on the elite. “I am close. I kind of showed it a few times last year, and this now,” Zverev said. “There’s a lot of positives in this match.
“I think he’s probably one of the fittest tennis players in the history of the game. I could have won. It’s disappointing.”
Elsewhere, Dominic Thiem booked his place in the fourth round by beating Frenchman Benoit Paire while Monfils overcame Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.