Melbourne (AFP) – The first players into the Australian Open quarter-finals will be decided Sunday with Rafael Nadal aiming to be there for the 10th time, as Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov face off in an anticipated clash.
The Spanish world number one has been in imperious form, ruthlessly dismantling his first three opponents as he sets his sights on a 17th Grand Slam title.
Next up is Argentina’s 24th seed Diego Schwartzman in an afternoon match on Rod Laver Arena, with Nadal saying he will need to be at his best to get past him.
“He’s won three matches here, playing at very high level. He’s a very complete player,” said the Spaniard, who is chasing his second Melbourne title after beating Roger Federer in the 2009 final.
“He’s a player that if I don’t play my best, probably I am not going to win. Tough one.”
If he does progress, either Spanish 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta or Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic will be waiting for him in the last eight.
Ordinarily Nadal, as the top seed, would have had top billing on Rod Laver in the evening, but not with local star Kyrgios in action.
The maturing Australian 22-year-old dispatched French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last round and now faces third seed Dimitrov, who has struggled so far.
Kyrgios has an edge — he beat the Bulgarian on his way to winning the Brisbane International earlier this month.
The winner will play either Briton Kyle Edmund or Italian veteran Andreas Seppi.
World number two Caroline Wozniacki headlines the women’s side of the draw, coming on court prior to Nadal with 19th-seeded Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova standing in her way.
Whoever wins that encounter will have a quarter-final against Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro or 32nd seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who ended the dreams of French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
Fourth seed Elina Svitolina’s title hopes are still alive and she will be looking to match her best Grand Slam performance and make the last eight by beating qualifier Denisa Allertova.
Svitolina is one of the form players, having won the lead-up Brisbane International.
“I cannot be more prepared than I am now. I had an amazing run in Brisbane,” she said.
“I’m just enjoying myself on court. Every match is a big challenge for everyone in a Grand Slam. And, you know, I’m just going to go out there and do my best.”
If she wins, she will face 81st-ranked Croat Petra Martic or Belgium’s Elise Mertens.