Rafael Nadal remains perfect at the Australian Open | ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal survived a third set bombardment from Karen Khachanov on Friday to maintain his ruthless start to the season, overcoming the 28th seed 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open for a staggering fifteenth time.

Prior to January, Nadal had not competed in a tour-level event since Washington in August due to a foot injury. But the sixth seed is playing like he’s never been away, with his win over Khachanov taking his perfect 2022 record to 6-0.

“It’s a very special week for me to come back,” Nadal said during his on-court interview. “Any time I can play here it’s very special. Tonight I played against a great player and a good friend on the Tour. It was my best game since coming back without a doubt.

The Spaniard, who won his 89th tour-level title at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month, dropped just a point on serve in the opening set against Khachanov and recovered from only losing his second set against the Russian to finally advance after two hours. and 50 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

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Nadal is aiming to win a record 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, having won the Australian Open trophy in 2009. He dismissed 39 winners and committed 30 unforced errors to improve to 8-0 in his ATPHead2Head series against Khachanov.

“I went through very difficult times in the last year,” Nadal added. “But nights like this mean everything. I continue to fight and move forward every day. I put in a lot of effort to be back where I am today, so I’m happy.

In a brutal and heavy performance, Nadal took time off the Russian with his aggressive topspin hitting ball in the first two sets, firing Khachanov one way and then the other as he tackled the 25-year-old behind the bottom line.

The 13-time Roland Garros champion, who has beaten Khachanov five times, was on course for a routine win as he entered the third set. But from 1-2, 40/0 in the set, Nadal lost serve for the first time in the game as Khachanov started to close the net to great effect. The Russian continued to destabilize the sixth seed with his powerful shot and he gained a foothold in the clash holding on to love to seal the set.

All of this only boosted the Spaniard, with Nadal breaking in stunning fashion early in the fourth set with a backhand pass down the line. The former world No. 1 let out a roar and punched the air in delight, before running to finish the line to advance.

The world No. 5 will next face 18th seed Aslan Karatsev or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the last 16. Only Roger Federer (18) advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park more than Nadal.

Did you know?
Nadal tries to become just the second man behind Novak Djokovic win all four major tournaments at least twice.

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