Entertainment, Sports

I don’t have big pressure – relaxed Rafael Nadal books third-round spot

Rafael Nadal is confident he is on the right path after moving smoothly into the third round of the Australian Open.

German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann put up a good fight on Rod Laver Arena, including saving four match points, but sixth seed Nadal took his fifth chance to clinch a 6-2 6-3 6-4 victory after two hours and 42 minutes.

“I think he played great tennis out there, playing very aggressive, big shots,” said Nadal. “It wasn’t an easy game at all.”

Nadal is unbeaten so far this season having cut short his 2021 campaign in August because of a foot problem. He is the only former champion in the men’s draw but is currently third favourite behind Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev.

“I think I am doing things well,” said Nadal. “Things that I can improve I have to improve. I want to keep going in the tournament. But winning today allows me to practise again tomorrow, to be ready for another match. After two matches it’s the moment to make a step forward.

“I’m excited about it. 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.”

Matteo Berrettini celebrates his victory over Stefan KozlovMatteo Berrettini celebrates his victory over Stefan Kozlov (Simon Baker/AP)

Nadal is not the only Spanish contender this year. He was joined in round three by Carlos Alcaraz – the youngest man to make it this far in Melbourne since Bernard Tomic 11 years ago.

Alcaraz is only 18 but is making strides at a very rapid pace and he eased to a 6-2 6-1 7-5 victory over Dusan Lajovic.

Next up for the teenager is an intriguing clash against seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, who has been struggling with illness but battled to a 6-1 4-6 6-4 6-1 win against American wild card Stefan Kozlov.

Zverev overcame jeering from the Australian crowd to defeat home favourite John Millman 6-4 6-4 6-0, while Gael Monfils dispatched the eccentric Alexander Bublik 6-1 6-0 6-4.

The biggest casualty of the day was 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz, with the Wimbledon semi-finalist beaten 6-4 6-2 6-3 by French veteran Adrian Mannarino.

Corentin Moutet lost an epic clash to Sebastian KordaCorentin Moutet lost an epic clash to Sebastian Korda (Tertius Pickard/AP)

Fourteenth seed Denis Shapovalov survived a five-setter against Kwon Soon-woo, coming through 7-6 (6) 6-7 (3) 6-7 (6) 7-5 6-2 and next faces giant American Reilly Opelka.

The match of the day saw young American Sebastian Korda, son of former champion Petr, claim a deciding fifth-set tie-break against France’s Corentin Moutet after four hours and 47 minutes.

He next meets 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who ended the 29-match winning run of Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, also in five sets.

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