Tennis ‘Improving’ Nadal conquers third round place with comfortable victory

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal said his game has been improving with every game since returning from a long injury break after Spaniard Yannick Hanfmann passed 6-2 6-3 6-4 to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday. .

The only former champion left in the Melbourne Park men’s draw, Nadal is on 20 majors with the injured Roger Federer and world number one Novak Djokovic, who was deported from Australia before the tournament started.

A second Australian Open title would not only break the tie in men’s tennis, but also make Nadal the second man after Djokovic to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice since the sport turned professional in 1968.

However, Nadal has repeatedly said his sole goal at this year’s opening was to stay healthy, having returned to the Tour after recovering from a long-term foot problem and contracting COVID-19 last month.

“I said here before the start of the tournament that things won’t be perfect, but every day I’m going to spend on the court, the chances of playing better are greater,” said Nadal, who won an Australian Open tuning. event this month in its first tournament since August.

“I think I’m doing well. I’m excited to be playing here again in a third round after all the things I’m going through. I don’t have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, to be honest. I don’t feel it.”

Nadal said he wanted to be more aggressive on the pitch but hasn’t had much time to change his game.

“Only five games after such a long period, not enough in general terms to judge whether I can change something or not,” he said.

“If I can play more games in the coming months, I hope to be able to play better and improve some things.”

The 2009 champion’s only previous encounter with 126th-ranked Hanfmann took place at the Roland Garros clay in 2019, when Nadal lost just six games en route to a straight-set win.

The 30-year-old German qualifier fared slightly better on a windy day at the Rod Laver Arena, but not enough to harass Nadal, who hit 30 winners and broke his opponent’s serve four times while saving both breakpoints.

Hanfmann started well by hitting the net regularly and also pulling Nadal forward with drop shots, but the Spaniard improved as the match progressed.

Sixth-seeded needed five match points before sealing the win when Hanfmann sent a forehand long before meeting Russia’s Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi from France for a fourth-round spot.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Peter Rutherford and Tomasz Janowski)

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