Nadal leads Spanish trio into Australian Open third round
Nadal improves to 5-0 for 2022 with this win
Ever since he broke through into the international stage by winning his first Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros in 2005, Rafael Nadal has been the flag-bearer of Spanish men’s tennis. During his career that has spanned more than two decades, Nadal has won 20 Grand Slam singles title, including an record-smashing 13 French Open titles. This fortnight, he will aim to lift his 21st Major at the Australian Open and break the three-way tie with rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the most Slams in men’s tennis history.
On Wednesday, Nadal took another step in that direction with a straight sets second round win over German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann. The 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 scoreline may indicate an easy win for the Spaniard. But Nadal needed two hours and 42 minutes to put an end to the German’s spirited challenge.
Both players hit 30 winners each on the day with Nadal making fewer unforced errors: 26 for the Spaniard as compared to 32 for the German, who won his first-ever Grand Slam main draw match this week.
Nadal was able to convert only four of 16 break point chances – a telling stat on how perseverant Hanfmann was on the day – and the Spaniard saved both the breakpoints on his own serve. He finally closed out the German on his fifth match point to set up a third round encounter against either Karen Khachanov, of Russia, or Benjamin Bonzi, of France.
The Spaniard’s longevity has often been put down to the hard work he puts in off-the-court but Nadal admitted during his on-court interview with Jim Courier that he is not a big fan of the gym.
I am not a big fan of the gym, I am a fan of playing sportRafael Nadal
When asked by Courier to explain the secret to his fitness, Nadal wryly said while smiling, “I play some golf. I never have been a gym guy … I am not a big fan of the gym, I am a fan of playing sports. Sometimes I am able to have some good practices on court, sometimes I am not able to do it. I just try to be ready to work; doesn’t matter the way – sometimes more tennis, sometimes more gym.”
Nadal, whose pre-season training plans were interrupted by a positive COVID-19 test in the second half of December, began his season by winning his 89th singles title in Melbourne and said he is happy with the progress he has made after missing the last few months of 2021 due to a foot injury.
“As I said here before the tournament start, things not going to be perfect, but every day that I going to spend on court, the chances to play better are higher. I think I am doing things well. Things that I can improve I have to improve. I want to keep going in the tournament. But winning today allow me to practice again tomorrow, to be ready for another match. After two matches is the moment to make a step forward. It not going to be impossible. I’m going to try.
“I’m excited about the fact that I’m going to be playing in a third round for one more time here after all the things I am going through. I don’t have big pressure on my shoulders, honestly. I don’t feel it. The pressure is only to stay healthy and to enjoy the fact that I am competing again, then give my best as I did during all my tennis career. I don’t expect that the things — well, expect fight for make the things better and better every single day.”
Nadal joined by compatriots Alcaraz and Carreno Busta in the third round
Nadal is one of three Spanish men who advanced to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday. 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who many have annointed heir apparent to Nadal, scored a 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 win over Serbian Dusan Lajovic. The 31st seeded Alcaraz, who unveiled a bulked up physique in a sleeveless tee in his 2022 debut this week, reached the quarter-finals of the US Open last year and has now improved to 10-4 in Grand Slam matches.
The teenager’s reward is a showdown against seventh seed and Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, who scored a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over American Stefan Kozlov.
19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta also joined Nadal and Alcaraz in the last 32. The 30-year-old needed four hours and 10 minutes to end the 29-match winning streak of Tallon Griekspoor 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 and set up a third-round showdown against Sebastian Korda, who beat Frenchman Corinten Moutet in a fifth-set tiebreaker.
If Carreno Busta and Alcaraz win their third-round matches, they will set up an all-Spanish fourth-rounder. And there is also a possibility that more Spaniards join the trio in the third round of the Australian Open.
Four more Spaniards could join the trio in the third round
Four Spaniards are still to complete their third-round matches. 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut meets German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, Pedro Martinez takes on 16th seed Cristian Garin, Pablo Andujar plays Alex Molcan, and Alejandro Davidoch Fokina meets ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Seeds who lost on Wednesday (2nd round): Hurkacz (10)
Seeds already out: Norrie (12), Basilashvili (21), Isner (22), Humbert (29), Harris (30)
Seeds who won on Wednesday (2nd round): Zverev (3), Nadal (6), Berrettini (7), Shapovalov (14), Garin (16), Monfils (17), Karatsev (18), Carreno Busta (19), Opelka (23), Sonego (25), Khachanov (28), Alcaraz (31)