Published:  03:57 AM, 20 January 2022

Rafa cruises into Australian Open third round


Rafael Nadal eased past qualifier Yannick Hanfmann to reach the third round of the Australian Open.Sixth seed Nadal, bidding for a men's record 21st Grand Slam title, beat Germany's Hanfmann 6-2 6-3 6-4. Hanfmann saved four match points, including two on the Spaniard's serve, before the 2009 champion secured victory on Rod Laver Arena.

Alexander Zverev also reached the third round after beating Australia's John Millman in straight sets. Despite a spirited performance from the Australian, the German third seed won 6-4 6-4 6-0 to set up a meeting with Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot, who beat wildcard Aleksandar Vukic 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-4. "I feel good, I won, I could really feel you guys have been in lockdown for two years," said Zverev. "It was an amazing atmosphere, and hopefully it will stay the same and get even louder for the next matches."

The 24-year-old says he was prepared to be the villain when facing a home favourite, but is enjoying having fans present in Melbourne. "I am prepared everyone will hate me after the match," he added."I have always said in the past two years since Covid started, sport needs the atmosphere and the people. Whether you are for me or against me - I enjoy the noise, enjoy being on court, spectators bring the emotion."

Nadal will face 28th seed Karen Khachanov next after the Russian beat France's Benjamin Bonzi 6-4 6-0 7-5. Nadal, a five-time finalist in Melbourne, is the only former champion remaining in the men's draw.He cut short his 2021 season because of a foot injury but has made a strong return, winning his first tournament back in the build-up to the Australian Open.

When asked about staying fit, Nadal joked: "I play some golf - I have never been a gym guy." He created 16 break point chances against the German, converting four of them, and hit 30 winners on his way to victory.Nadal said he did not have "big pressure on my shoulders" as he attempts to surpass Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic's record of 20 Slam titles.


---BBC





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