Nadal scores gritty win as he keeps Australian Open campaign on track

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Rafael Nadal has ground his way into the Australian Open third round, seeing off qualifier Yannick Hanfmann on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal was scratchy at times, converting just four of 16 break points, and took more than two-and-a-half hours to defeat the gritty German 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

The 2009 Australian Open champion was joined in the third round by fellow seed Matteo Berrettini (seven), who defeated US wildcard Stefan Kozlov 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.


Nadal’s countrymen Pablo Carreño Busta and Carlos Alcaraz — seeded 19th and 31st respectively — also progressed.

At 18, Alcaraz is the youngest man to reach the third round at Melbourne Park since Bernard Tomic in 2011 after a 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 defeat of Dušan Lajović.

He plays Berrettini in the third round.

Canada’s 14th seed Denis Shapovalov fought back to beat South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (3-7), 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2 in a marathon clash lasting almost four-and-half-hours. He plays Reilly Opelka of the US in the third round.

World number six Nadal credited Hanfmann — his 2019 French Open first-round opponent — with making his life difficult off the back of an impressive win over Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis.

“The result against Thanasi in the first round here says that he was playing great and coming from the quallies, he was used to the court,” Nadal said in his courtside interview.

“He’s a player with big shots, good serve and with very high potential.

“Today his level of tennis was much higher than what his ranking says, without a doubt.”

Pleasingly for Nadal, he has shown no signs of lingering fitness issues from last month’s bout of COVID-19, or his 2021 injuries.

The 35-year-old is the only player who can claim a record 21st men’s grand slam singles crown this month, amid Roger Federer’s injury-enforced absence and Novak Djokovic’s dramatic deportation.

Nadal reeled off four consecutive games to seal the first set, then had to find another gear to claim the second after some early troubles with Hanfmann’s strong baseline game.

The world number six broke Hanfmann early in the third set, converting his third break point after a 22-shot rally.

Hanfmann saved two match points on serve when trailing 5-3, then another two on Nadal’s subsequent service game, before the Spaniard sealed victory on his fifth attempt.

Nadal will next play either 28th seed Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi.


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