Australian Open: Gutsy Nadal tops Zverev

Rafael Nadal celebrates victory against Gael Monfils in the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne

Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his match against Alexander Zverev.

The 2009 Australian Open champion was made to work hard for his progress to the fourth round in Melbourne by the rising star Zverev, who was 2-1 up after three sets.

Rafael Nadal held back time, for one tournament at least, when he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 win over German teenager Alexander Zverev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

The showdown was arguably the pick of the last-32 matches and it lived up to its billing as Zverev threatened to inflict another early defeat on the left-hander. Although Nadal trailed 0-30 in the second game, he leveled in points and won on the first game point.

"Obviously right now the most important thing for me is I can manage my tennis if I can just have my full capacity and I can figure out tennis throughout the matches", Raonic said.

The final stages of the match ultimately came down to fitness, with Zverev appearing to cramp at 2-2 in the fifth set. The Spaniard faced break point, but a couple of lunging serves got him out of trouble.

"I'm disappointed, but I know that this was a great match", Zverev explained.

Elsewhere, giant-killer Denis Istomin, who ousted Djokovic, bids to extend his memorable tournament against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. "She's very aggressive, so that would be nice to play", said the 35-year-old.

The draining contest had clearly taken its toll on the German's body and as the match went into a fifth set Nadal sensed his opponent was wilting.

"So it's important for me to win a match like this, having been down two sets to one". If he's able to keep improving the way that he's doing, I don't have doubt that his potential is so, so high.

"I had a rough last 48 hours". First, it masked his normal backhand until he could restore it, but even more importantly, it forced Zverev to generate his power and it changed the patterns of play.

The Slovak sixth seed and WTA Finals champion joins third seed Agnieszka Radwanska and fourth-seeded Simona Halep as first-week casualties, blowing the draw wide open.

The 11th-seeded Goffin broke Karlovic's serve four times and did not have a break point on his own serve as he reached the round of 16 for the second straight year in Melbourne.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her unlikely run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari, and so did American qualifier Jennifer Brady. Much as Nadal was perfectly suited to beat Federer, Zverev is arguably better suited to beat Nadal than any player not named Novak Djokovic.