Ruthless Nadal storms into Brisbane quarters

The 22-time Grand Slam champion overpowered Kubler in 83 minutes to book his place in the last eight

By Reuters

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Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Jason Kubler at the Brisbane International. — AFP
Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Jason Kubler at the Brisbane International. — AFP

Published: Thu 4 Jan 2024, 4:30 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 Jan 2024, 4:31 PM

Rafael Nadal continued his impressive return from a long injury layoff with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of wildcard Jason Kubler to reach the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International on Thursday ahead of this month's Australian Open.

Out for nearly a year with a hip problem that required surgery, the 22-time Grand Slam champion overpowered Kubler in 83 minutes to book his place in the last eight.

Nadal had an impressive start as he cruised to a 5-0 lead before Kubler could even settle inside the Pat Rafter Arena.

The Australian held his serve in the sixth game and threatened to break the Spaniard in the next but Nadal came back from 40-0 down to seal the opener.

With Kubler hampered by a right elbow issue, Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set and again in the seventh before serving out the match.

"I think I started the match very well," Nadal, whose stunning shots included a spectacular backhand smash, said in an on-court interview and will now face Australian Jordan Thompson.

"I saw videos of Jason before the match and I saw him playing very solidly from the baseline, so I came on court and tried to be aggressive with my shots from the baseline."

"Two victories after a long time being outside of the professional tour is something that makes me feel good," added the Spaniard, referring to Tuesday's win against Austria's former world number three Dominic Thiem.

Former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko beat Karolina Pliskova 6-2 4-6 6-3 to reach the quarters in the women's section of the tune-up event for the Melbourne Park Grand Slam, which runs from Jan. 14-28.

Third-seeded Latvian Ostapenko, who will meet former world number one Victoria Azarenka for a place in the last four, raced through the first set but looked frustrated as Czech Pliskova fought back to claim the second.

Twice champion and number eight seed Azarenka beat France's Clara Burel 7-5 6-2, the 34-year-old Belarusian powering into a 4-1 lead in the opener before Burel drew level.

At the Auckland Classic, US Open champion Coco Gauff cruised past fellow teenager Brenda Fruhvirtova 6-3 6-0 on Thursday to set up a quarterfinal against Varvara Gracheva in the Australian Open warm-up event.

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Emma Raducanu, playing her first tournament following an eight-month injury layoff, failed to claim a place in the last eight after the former Flushing Meadows champion lost 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-1 to second seed Elina Svitolina.

Fruhvirtova, 16, matched Gauff in the early stages but once the American grabbed a 3-2 lead there was no looking back.

Gauff raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set and while the 19-year-old faced two break points serving for the match, she saved both to win her first career meeting with the Czech.

"(Fruhvirtova) started off playing really well and I was able to raise my level," Gauff said. "I thought I served well and did better on the returns and I think I played a great match today."

Briton Raducanu won the first set of her match and led 3-1 in the second set tiebreak before Svitolina fought back to force the decider.

The Ukrainian upped her game in the third set to take the match and set up a clash with Marie Bouzkova.


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