Rafael Nadal survived a bombing raid from Karen Khachanov in the third set on Friday to maintain his relentless start to the season. a staggering 15th 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 never left, with his win over Khachanov extending his perfect 2022 record to 6-0.
“It’s a very special week for me to come back,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “Every time I can play here is very special. Tonight I played against a great player and a good friend on Tour. It was my best game since I came back without a doubt.”
The Spaniard, who captured his 89th tour-level title at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month, lost just one point on serve in the opening set against Khachanov and recovered from losing only his second ever set against the Russian to finally reach two hours later. by going and 50 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
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Nadal is aiming for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, having won the Australian Open trophy in 2009. He shot 39 winners and made 30 unforced errors to improve to 8-0 in his ATPHead2Head series against Khachanov.
“I’ve been through some very difficult times in the past year,” Nadal added. “But nights like tonight mean everything. I keep fighting every day and keep going. I’ve put a lot of effort into being back where I am now, so I’m happy.”
In a brutal, heavy performance, Nadal took time away from the Russian with his aggressive topspin ball hitting Khachanov one way and then the other in the first two sets as he pinned the 25-year-old behind the baseline.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2022
The 13-time Roland Garros champion, who broke Khachanov five times, looked on his way to a routine win as they pushed into the third set. But going 1-2, 40/0 into the set, Nadal lost service for the first time in the match as Khachanov began closing the net with great success. The Russian continued to disrupt the sixth seed with his powerful punch and he gained a foothold in the clash by holding on to love to seal the set.
All this did was wake the Spaniard, with Nadal astonishingly breaking through at the start of the fourth set with a backhand pass down the line. The former world No. 1 let out a roar and burst into the air with delight, before racing to cross the finish line to advance.
The world’s number 5 then faces Aslan Karatsev as the 18th or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the last 16. Only Roger Federer (18) has advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park more than Nadal.
Did you know?
Nadal is only trying to become second man behind Novak Djokovic to win all four majors at least twice.