MELBOURNE – Rafael Nadal was upset that he was called for multiple time violations in his 7-6 (3) 7-5 7-6 (3) fourth-round win over Kei Nishikori but he’s been a serial offender of the rule, even if he is one of the tour’s greatest and most exciting competitors. He takes a lot of times between every point and consistently pushes the Grand Slams’ 20-second rule.
Nishikori played perhaps the best Grand Slam match of his life at the Aussie Open as he whaled away against Nadal all day long, but could not capture enough big points to even win a set.
With the third set tied at 4-4 and deuce, chair umpire Eva Asderaki gave Nadal his second time violation and he had to forfeit his first serve. The Spaniard rarely shows anger on court, but he was infuriated on that occasion and threw a ball in disgust. Nishikori took the next two points to break, but Nadal would break back, recompose himself and eventually win the contest.
But that did not cool his jets as he felt like Asderaki should have shown more flexibility given how tough the points were in the game and because of the stage of the match. Umpires are told to call the violations when they occur regardless of what stage the match is in, although they can be flexible if they choose to if the prior point is extremely long. But, if Asderaki has chosen not to call the violation on Nadal at that juncture (and he really did violate the rule), is that is fair to his opponent and would it open the door to even more violations?
It should be noted that it appears that the umpires have been tougher during this fortnight than they have been at any other Grand Slam, even warning some of the women players, which they rarely do. Jelena Jankovic received a warning come off a changeover on Monday in her three-set loss to Simona Halep.
Nadal was not pleased, although he said he would try to quicken his pace.
“The negative thing in my opinion is not the warning,” Nadal said. “The negative thing is the moment, 4‑All, deuce. You can choose another moment to do it, not that one. Another thing is she didn’t advise me before the second warning that I was still going slow. So normal thing, if the referee is say, ‘Rafa, you are going too slow.’ So I try to go quicker, before the second warning. But she didn’t make it. The rule says you can do it. But, in my opinion, that goes against the show. But that’s fine. If she wants to do it that way, she did. She did, and that’s why we are talking.”
What is unclear is whether Nadal knows how experienced Asderaki is. She may call matches slightly differently than other umpires, but she has overseen thousands of them, including Grand Slam finals. He does not seem to be too impressed, even though she is a real pro.
“I going to try to go quicker for the future,” he said. “But is important to have people on the chair that really understand the game and people who manage this sport who understand the game, and that’s it. Because, if not, every time with Hawk‑Eye, the referee just start watching the watch, 25 seconds, then warning, so then we don’t need any more referees. We only need lines. That’s fine. Because if not, the referees don’t need to do all the rules. That is my feeling. We are making the referees worse than before with all the things that we are making for them easier.”
Next up: Dimitrov
Nadal will face the 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals, who bested Spain’s Roberto Bautista 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4. Dimitrov is in the final eight for the first time and is playing more patiently than he did last season, which helps him overall because, even though he is an impressive shot-maker, he does have the tendency to become sloppy. At a Grand Slam in three out of five set matches, players don’t get away with that over the long haul. Dimitrov does not appear to fear the match-up, but he will be the underdog for sure.
“We all know that he has won tons of Slams,” Dimitrov said. “He’s been a tremendous competitor. He’s Rafa. We all know him. But that’s what I’m playing for, to put myself in position to play those guys. I had tough battles with him in the past. Played a couple times on clay. There were always little things missing. But I’m quite happy with the way I’m performing so far. So I like my chances.”
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are both out of the tournament now, Sharapova to Dominika Cibulkova on Monday in a great effort by the Slovakian, but not two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka who took a very impressive 6-3 6-2 victory over Sloane Stephens. The 20-year-old American contested a very decent first set but not win enough of the big points, was slightly out steadied and didn’t take enough risks. Azarenka was better off the ground and more ambitious. She’s the highest seed left in the event. She will play the winner of the match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza. Halep reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal and will play Cibulkova.
“I don’t consider anybody as the favorite, I just go out there and play my best,” said Azarenka. “We’ve seen over the last couple of days that somebody can bring their best game on any given day. You have to stay alert.”