Rafa Nadal held off a fierce challenge from one of the hottest prospects in the game when he outlasted German teenager Alexander Zverev 4-6 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Australian Open on Friday.
The Spaniard, champion here in 2009, needed to be at his resilient best to come out on top after more than four hours of top quality shot-making and thrilling rallies which earned both players a huge ovation from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.
The 19-year-old showed in spades why many consider him a future grand slam champion but was just unable to stay with Nadal in a gripping deciding set, which the 30-year-old sealed when the 24th seed netted a forehand.
Returning to Melbourne Park as ninth seed after curtailing his 2016 season because of injury, Nadal will next face Gael Monfils of France or another German in Philipp Kohlschreiber as he bids for a 15th grand slam title.
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