Melbourne - Rafael
Nadal looked in ominous form as he powered into the Australian Open
third round with a straight sets victory Wednesday, a workout he deemed
"very important" in his return from a knee injury.
Spain's world No 1 only dropped serve once in a dominant performance
as he reeled off a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over 52nd-ranked
Argentine Leonardo Mayer in 2 hours and 38 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal, a losing finalist to Roger Federer last year in Melbourne,
will face Bosnia-Herzegovina's 28th seed Damir Dzumhur in the third
It was a masterly performance from the 16-time Grand Slam champion,
who conceded only 10 unforced errors, stacked up against his 40 winners.
"It was an important victory for me, he's a tough opponent," Nadal said.
"Leonardo is a player with big potential, he hits the ball so strong
and you could see in the last couple of games how tough was he.
"I had to hit some great shots in the tie-break, he's a very dangerous opponent.
"I am happy to be in the third round after being out of competition
for a while, a second victory in a row is very important to me."
He now faces Dzumhur in the next round on Friday, when temperatures
are forecast to hit 40 degrees Celsius, with Nadal urging
organisers to shut the roof on the stadium he plays on.
"The only thing that I hope, if it is extreme conditions, I hope the
organisers shut the roof. I think is a health issue," he said.
"Even I like sometimes to play when it's hot. When it's too much, it becomes dangerous for the health."
Dzumhur was a tough opponent, he added.
"He's a tricky one. The only way to win is play in a high rhythm than
him and try to play aggressive, try to put the highest intensity
possible out there. That's what I going to try."
Mayer played well and stuck to his guns, hitting 48 winners offset by
33 unforced errors and breaking serve for the only time in the match as
Nadal was serving out to win, forcing the third set into a tiebreaker.
"He played a great game, all the returns in, very long, playing so
aggressive, hitting all the balls super strong, and having success,"
Nadal said of Mayer.
The win took the 31-year-old Spaniard's Australian Open record to
53-11 as he chases his second Australian title after beating Federer in
the 2009 final.
Nadal, who is gunning for a 17th major title, was hampered by a knee injury at the tail-end of the 2017 season.
It forced him to skip the lead-up Brisbane International this month,
and he only had a one-match workout at the exhibition Kooyong Classic in
Melbourne ahead of the Open.
Nadal needs to reach the quarter-finals to be certain of retaining
his world number one ranking after the Australian Open, with Federer
breathing down his neck.
Results from the Australian Open on Wednesday:
Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x10) bt Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-2, 3-0 ret
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) bt Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 7-5, 6-1, 6-3
Andreas Seppi (ITA) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-1, 6-3, 6-4
Gilles Muller (LUX x23) bt Malek Jaziri (TUN) 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 3-6, 6-2
Kyle Edmund (GBR) bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-2, 6-2, 6-4
Marin Cilic (CRO x6) bt João Sousa (POR) 6-1, 7-5, 6-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x15) bt Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5
Damir Dzumhur (BIH x28) bt John Millman (AUS) 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
Ryan Harrison (USA) bt Pablo Cuevas (URU x31) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) bt Yuichi Sugita (JPN) 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 4-6, 12-10
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Leonardo Mayer (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
Diego Schwartzman (ARG x24) bt Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3
Denisa Allertova (CZE) bt Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) bt Olivia Rogowska (AUS) 6-3, 7-5
Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS x15) 6-2, 6-3
Elina Svitolina (UKR x4) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
Luksika Kumkhum (THA) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-1, 6-3
Petra Martic (CRO) bt Irina Begu (ROM) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK x19) bt Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-4, 0-6, 6-2
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x2) bt Jana Fett (CRO) 3-6, 6-2, 7-5
Magda Linette (POL) bt Darya Kasatkina (RUS x22) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x7) bt Duan Yingying (CHN) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
Kaia Kanepi (EST) bt Monica Puig (PUR) 6-4, 6-3
Kiki Bertens (NED x30) bt Nicole Gibbs (USA) 7-6 (7/3), 6-0
Anett Kontaveit (EST x32) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3