Nadal crushes fiery Fognini to reach Australian Open quarterfinals

Rafael Nadal defeats Fabio Fognini in three sets in the fourth round.

Rafael Nadal celebrates during his fourth-round contest on Monday. - AP

Rafael Nadal has advanced to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 13th time. The No. 2-ranked Nadal closed his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over 16th-seeded Fabio Fognini with an ace.

SCORE CENTRE

He was wary of Fognini and lifted his game in the second and third sets to avoid any repeat of the 2015 U.S. Open. That’s when Fognini became one of only two players who’ve rallied from two sets down to beat Nadal in five.

There was no chance this time. Nadal responded to dropping a service game in the second set by breaking straight back.

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He will now play either fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas or ninth-seeded Matteo Berrettini in the last eight. It will be Nadal’s 43rd Grand Slam quarterfinal. He shares the record for most men’s major titles with Roger Federer. They each have 20.

Nadal’s preparation for the year’s first major was hampered by back stiffness.

After the win over Fognini he said: “I’m happy the back is holding better.”