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Nadal holds off rising talent Zverev to reach last 16

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 21/1/17 Spain's Rafael Nadal consoles Germany's Alexander Zverev after Nadal won his Men's singles third round match. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 21/1/17 Spain's Rafael Nadal consoles Germany's Alexander Zverev after Nadal won his Men's singles third round match. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - 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.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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