Rafael Nadal will face third seed Milos Raonic for a place in the semi-finals of the 2017 Australian Open. The Spaniard, pushed incredibly hard by teenage prodigy Alexander Zverev over the weekend following regulation defeats of Florian Mayer and Marcos Baghdatis, breezed through the opening two sets of Monday's (23 January) last-16 tie against the unpredictable Gael Monfils at Rod Laver Arena.
However, he was broken at 4-4 in the third before Monfils, a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist currently at number six in the ATP rankings, saved four break points to prolong the match. The two men exchanged further breaks in the fourth set before Nadal took another game against the Frenchman leading 5-4 to win the match after his opponent unsuccessfully challenged a wide call.
"Gael is a special player," Nadal was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. "He can play unbelievable shots and is one of the more charismatic players. Seeing him in the top ranking places is great for the sport.
"I had chances in the third and didn't take them so it's dangerous. He had some huge serves and you are under problems against a big player like him.
"Coming back I know I keep having some chances and then at 5-4 with his serve under pressure I had my chances. To be in a quarter-final at a Grand Slam is very special for me, especially here in Australia where it feels a little bit like home."
Raonic, who beat Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International earlier this month, does not appear to be in the best shape to stake a claim for his maiden Grand Slam title after battling the flu and a high fever over recent days. The big-serving Canadian did manage to overcome Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, but committed 55 unforced errors in the process and also required treatment to his leg.
"I was very fortunate to get through today," Raonic admitted afterwards. "There were moments where it wasn't looking so good."
David Goffin is also through after battling past Dominic Thiem in four sets. It is the second consecutive year that he has eliminated the world number eight in Melbourne. His next opponent is Grigor Dimitrov, who ended Novak Djokovic's conqueror Denis Istomin's superb run 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-1 to secure his first major last-eight appearance since Wimbledon in 2014. A disruptive thigh injury suffered by the plucky Uzbek after an impressive first set rather torpedoed his chances of victory.
In the women's draw, veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her fairytale campaign. The 34-year-old Croatian, who has not reached a Grand Slam quarter-final for 18 years, eased past American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2 to set up a meeting with 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova. The latter ensured that Australia lost their last remaining singles player with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Moscow-born Daria Gavrilova.