Melbourne: Rampant Rafael Nadal battered ex-world number four Tomas Berdych Sunday but said he would be taking a step into the unknown against “dangerous” Frances Tiafoe in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
The Spanish 17-time Grand Slam winner dismissed the unseeded Czech 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) to tear into the last eight without dropping a tournament set.
Next in the firing line for Nadal is giant-killing American Tiafoe — who celebrated his 21st birthday in style Sunday by beating 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov.
“It’s going to be the first time that we play each other. Yeah, he’s playing great,” he said of 39th-ranked Tiafoe who created one of the shocks of the tournament by knocking out fifth seed Kevin Anderson in the first round.
“I know him, of course. He’s been on the tour for a while. He’s young. When you have younger players coming, they have always more attention.”
Tiafoe, whose best previous Slam result was reaching the third round of Wimbledon last year, warmed up for Melbourne by partnering Serena Williams in the mixed teams Hopman Cup.
“He’s a very dynamic player, aggressive one. Of course, he’s dangerous,” said Nadal.
“He’s in the quarter-finals. He won great matches during the whole event. He’s super quick. And he’s able to change directions fast.
“He goes to the net fast. He has a huge forehand, good serve. So let’s see.”
A shell-shocked Berdych finally exerted some pressure on the 17-time Grand Slam champion in the third set, holding set points in the ninth and 11th games.
But the Czech missed five months last year with a back injury.