Ruthless Rafa Romps Into Quarter-finals
Nadal took the Round of 16 meeting 6-0, 6-1, 7-6(4) in a mere two hours and five minutes, barely putting a foot wrong to rout the former World No. 4. Berdych has impressed in his return to action from a back injury, but he was no match for the 2009 champion on a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon.
With the victory, Nadal advances to his 11th Australian Open quarter-final, claiming sole ownership of second place for most appearances in the last eight at Melbourne Park. He also surpassed Andre Agassi for fourth place on the list of most Grand Slam quarter-finals, reaching his 37th in total at the major level.
"I'm happy to be in [the quarter-finals]," said Nadal. "I played some good matches until that round, and now is the moment to keep doing steps forward to... give myself chances to keep going."
Nadal won the first nine games, sprinting to a 6-0, 3-0 lead on Rod Laver Arena, before Berdych finally got on the scoreboard. The Spaniard's agility and penetrating shotmaking rattled the Czech throughout the encounter, and he refused to allow him to find any rhythm from the back of the court.
Contesting the ninth match in his comeback, Berdych was visibly fatigued and Nadal capitalised. The Manacor native fired 32 winners, including five aces, while denying both break points faced.
"[Rafa] was playing well," said Berdych. "Nevertheless, the first two sets it was me back [to where I was] six months [ago]. For the third set, I finally showed up on the court, so that's good."
It was Nadal's 20th match win in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, improving to 20-4. He exacted revenge on Berdych after the Czech prevailed in straight sets in the 2015 quarter-finals. Nadal has now recorded 20 match wins against four players: Berdych, David Ferrer (25), Novak Djokovic (24) and Roger Federer (23).
Competing in his first tournament since the US Open, Nadal is looking as healthy as ever as he continues to blitz the Melbourne field. He has won a perfect 12 of 12 sets through his first four matches, also including impressive performances against a trio of Aussies - James Duckworth, Matthew Ebden and Alex de Minaur.
Next up for the World No. 2 is #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe. It will be their first meeting.
"[Frances has been] on the Tour for a while. He's young. When you have younger players coming, they have always more attention," said Nadal. "He has everything. He's quick. He serves well [and has a] very quick forehand. He's a very dynamic player, an aggressive one. Of course, he's dangerous. He's in the quarter-finals. He won great matches during the whole event. [It is] going to be a tough one."