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Day 9 men's preview: Nadal, Monfils look to keep youth at bay

  • Alex Sharp

Grab the snacks, grab the coffee (or your fuel of choice) and settle in for a couple of cracking men's matches on Tuesday at Australian Open 2022. 

MORE: Day 9 schedule of play

There's a couple of 35-year-olds still bringing the heat, and two young guns bidding for a major breakthrough in Melbourne.  

For Rafael Nadal, one of those 30-somethings, a win over Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday afternoon will bring him within two victories of lifting a men's all-time best 21st Grand Slam title.  
MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

Nadal has been steadily rising through the gears at Melbourne Park. His intensity, his shot-making and his trademark mind-boggling movement were at a vintage level in the fourth round against Adrian Mannarino on Sunday. 
The Spaniard prevailed in a sensational 28-minute tiebreak, then flew into the last eight 7-6(14) 6-2 6-2.  

Remember the Melbourne Park 2009 champion had five months out with a foot injury before arriving in Australia. His longevity and ability to bounce back is simply staggering.  
"Things are going much better than expected, without a doubt," stated the world No.5. 

"But sport changes quick, and you need to be ready." 

Nadal's title credentials will be truly tested on Day 9, with confidence coursing through the veins of Shapovalov. 
The Canadian completely dismantled world No.3 Alexander Zverev to match his Grand Slam career-best last-eight berths at US Open 2020 and Wimbledon 2021.  

His straight-sets passage past the German was his first top-five victory since 2017. Back then, under the lights on home soil in Montreal, an 18-year-old Shapovalov became a household name overnight with a gunpowder display to defeat Nadal in a third-set tiebreak.  

"Was a tough one, that one, I remember because I was playing for the No. 1," recalled Nadal, 3-1 up in their head-to-head encounters.  
"As everybody knows, (he) is one of the players with the biggest potential on the tour. 
"I still think that if he's able to keep improving, he will be a multi-Grand Slam winner. He has a lot of amazing things on his game, and his results says that. When he's playing well, it's very difficult to stop him." 
Shapovalov has indicated his bolstered patience under the guidance of Andy Murray's former coach Jamie Delgado has provided the platform to shine in Melbourne.  
"Unfortunately, I haven't been able to have a breakthrough run until now, but I've always felt also that the courts suit my game, it's gonna come eventually," insisted the 14th seed.  

Shapovalov's win over Zverev represented a big step

"I'm definitely expecting a long battle out there. Gonna have to try to play my game, take it to him and keep doing what I have been doing; playing patient, fighting for every point, and just picking my spots to play aggressively." 
If Shapovalov can bring controlled aggression and his 'wolf' mentality, we are in for a real treat.  
In same half of the draw, Italian powerhouse Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian man to reach the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slams. 
The 25-year-old was at the peak of his powers in nailing 28 aces to dismiss 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets on Sunday, backing up his absorbing five-setter with Next Gen prodigy Carlos Alcaraz in round three.

Berrettini, a Wimbledon finalist last July, is wary of the "fight" and "battle" on Tuesday, knowing he has to blast past one of the finest athletes this sport has witnessed

Gael Monfils already picked up the Adelaide title this month and is thriving back in the cauldron of Grand Slam tennis – interacting with his legion of fans and bringing some show-stopping strokes.  
The flamboyant Frenchman has hit the second week without dropping a set, insisting "we're not finished yet." 

This battle between the seventh and 17th seeds could go the distance, just like their box-office 2019 US Open quarterfinal, when Berrettini edged the fifth-set tiebreak 7-5 in New York. 

Expect fireworks, expect raw power, and expect the unexpected from the mercurial Monfils.

"For sure he's an experienced player, and he's been in these kind of situations, these matches in slams so many times, but I also think that I did the same," said world No.7 Berrettini.

"Obviously he has way more matches and way more experience. He's 10 years older, but in a way, he's really young because he's moving really well, and he's a tricky player. 

"I have good memories when I played him last time in a quarterfinals in a slam (US Open 2019), so hopefully it's gonna be a good one too."