Australian Open

Nadal in cruise control

2012-01-20 06:54
Rafa Nadal (AP)

Melbourne - Rafa Nadal sent the last qualifier spinning out of the Australian Open on Friday with a comfortable 6-2 6-4 6-2 win over Slovakian Lukas Lacko.

Nadal could not have asked for smoother passage into the fourth round, wrapping up victory in an hour and 55 minutes in overcast conditions on Rod Laver Arena and conserving valuable energy for the wars of attrition to come in later rounds.

The world number two came into the year's first grand slam with injury clouds hanging over his head, but the Spaniard has yet to lose a set at Melbourne Park and on Friday there was little to suggest his knee or shoulder were bothering him.

"The knee is fine, that's the important thing," the 2009 champion said in a news conference.

"The match was a really complete match, a really solid one. I'm very happy about my game. Being in the fourth round without losing a set, it's fantastic news."

Despite cruising through three seemingly simple matches so far, Nadal felt he had been tested but the level of his play had made things look easy.

"I am playing well. If you are playing well, things can be a little bit less difficult. If you are playing bad, every match will be very, very difficult," he added.

"I played three matches at a very good level. Today(Friday) was one of the best, solid, without mistakes, comfortable with the serve, having a good return.

"So nothing is easy. Every match you have your problems."

Both players lost their opening service games in an untidy start to the match but Nadal was quick to settle into his stride, taking advantage of Lacko's uncertain first serve and overpowering the Slovakian with a booming backhand.

After taking the first set in 43 minutes, the world number two again broke Lacko to start the second and there was little the Slovakian could do get a foothold in the set.

Lacko got some respite from the Spanish assault early in the third as both players stopped play and stood mesmerised as a small bird swooped and swirled around the net in search of lunch.

The interruption over, Nadal got right back to business with another dominating service game before wrapping up the set in 33 minutes.

Nadal, who won a sixth French Open title last season but lost his world number one ranking, as well as six consecutive finals to Novak Djokovic, will play compatriot Feliciano Lopez or American John Isner in the next round.

With 10 grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal to his name, the former world number one was asked if there was anything else he wanted to achieve.

"I haven't won the Australian Open 2012 so I will do my best for that," he replied.

Nadal said the 6'9" (205cm) Isner would be a tough opponent if the American made it past Lopez and that the 16th seed had more to his game than just his blistering serve.

"Fantastic serve. Fantastic forehand. He is one of the opponents you don't want to meet."

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