Nadal ‘looks ready’ for record 21st Grand Slam
Rafael Nadal has advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over 28th seed Karen Khachanov.
Nadal, aiming for a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title, was facing his first seeded opponent and dropped his first set of the tournament.
The sixth seed struggled in the third set when the 1.98m Russian broke to go up 3-1 before taking the set in 57 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
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But the 35-year-old Nadal quickly regained control in a dominant fourth set, twice breaking the Olympic silver medallist.
Nadal shares the men’s record of 20 singles titles with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic, a nine time champion at Melbourne Park, couldn’t play after having his visa cancelled for failing to meet Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination regulations.
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Nadal’s first set serving masterclass
“He sends a message to the rest of those in the draw that he’s been looking for, longing for,” Todd Woodbridge said in commentary for Nine and Stan Sport.
“He looks absolutely ready,” leading coach Darren Cahill adds.
Federer is skipping the Australian Open while he continues his recovery from injury.
Unseeded American overwhelmed after upsetting Naomi Osaka
Earlier in the night, defending champion Naomi Osaka was knocked out after losing to Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the third round.
Within an hour Osaka had consigned it to the past.
It’s part of her new resolution for 2022.
No dwelling on what’s already happened.
Osaka had two match points against the world No.60 and she missed two backhands.
Anisimova held serve to force a tiebreaker, which she dominated, and finished with an ace for a comeback victory over the four time major champion.
Osaka knocked out of Australian Open
In doing so, the 20-year-old American ensured that the so called ‘final before the final – a much-anticipated fourth round showdown between Osaka and top ranked Australian Ash Barty – won’t happen.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to have regrets about those two match points,” Osaka said.
“Like, I thought she played really well. But I can’t really look in the past anymore, you know?
“Like I just have to focus on what I can do in the future to hopefully evade those situations.”
Anisimova, who had lost her previous nine matches against top 20 players and had to rebound from a set and a break down to survive her first round match, hit 46 winners to Osaka’s 21.
Osaka, one of the most powerful hitters in the women’s draw, praised Anisimova’s service returns and described how the ball kept coming back at her so low and fast that she couldn’t adjust her footwork to counter it.
Amanda Anisimova vs Naomi Osaka: Australian Open 2022 | Tennis Highlights
“I just want to soak in this moment,” said Anisimova, who took out Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the second round.
“It was an amazing match. It was very close. You know, there were a bit of nerves, and to play Naomi for the first time… it’s unreal, honestly.”
Anisimova won her first WTA hardcourt title at a tune-up tournament in Melbourne this month and is now on an eight match winning streak – the longest of her career in main draw matches.
Anisimova ties things up
It’s the fourth time Osaka has been unable to defend a major title, and the 11th time in her 21 trips to Grand Slam events she has been knocked out in the third round, including last year’s US Open.
After winning the title last year – her second at Melbourne Park in three years – Osaka withdrew from the French Open in the second round and skipped Wimbledon to take a break for her mental health.
After her tearful exit at the US Open, she took an extended layoff to reset and arrived at the year’s first major with a seeding of No.13.
Osaka takes the first set
She also brought a new approach, vowing to enjoy the game more and never again cry in a news conference.
She’s spent time meditating, keeping a journal of things she needs to be grateful for, and more time hanging out with family and friends.
“I can’t win every match. So I just have to, like, take that into account,” Osaka said.
“I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude, so I’m really happy with – you know, of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went.”
Barty is hoping to become the first Australian woman to win the championship here since 1978.
She advanced to the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over 30th seed Camila Giorgi and has only conceded eight games and spent less than three hours on court.
Ash Barty’s special message for her first coach
A career break a few years back, to play professional cricket, did Barty a world of good.
Since her return, she won her first Grand Slam title at the 2019 French Open – beating Anisimova in the semifinals – and won Wimbledon last year.
The hype surrounding the fourth round didn’t impact her planning.
“Each match is uncertain. You just have to navigate your way through as best you can that given moment,” Barty said.
“I’ve done a good job of that this week. Now it’s exciting to get to play Amanda again.”
Osaka’s loss means Victoria Azarenka remains the last woman to successfully defend an Australian Open singles title.
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She overpowered 15th-seed Elina Svitolina 6-0, 6-2 to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2016.
She had her son with her at a news conference and five-year-old Leo, wearing his sunglasses and sitting on his mother’s knee, described the two-time champion’s form as: “awesome!”
The 2012 and 2013 winner will next play French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who rallied from a set and a break down to beat 26th seed Jelena Ostapenko 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Victoria Azarenka vs Elina Svitolina: Australian Open 2022 | Tennis Highlights
Since a quarterfinal run in Australia in 2016, Azarenka lost first round matches last year and in 2019, and missed the hard-court tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Other fourth round pairings that were set up include fifth seed Maria Sakkari against 21st seed Jessica Pegula and No.8 Paula Badosa against Madison Keys, who held off Wang Qiang 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2) on Friday.
Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev had a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Radu Albot, a 124th ranked qualifier from Moldova.
Alexander Zverev vs Radu Albot: Australian Open 2022 | Tennis Highlights
The third seed Zverev will next play No.14 Denis Shapovalov, who beat Reilly Opelka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini fended off 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz 6-2, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (5).
Miomir Kecmanovic continued to make the most of the absence of fellow Serbian Novak Djokovic, reaching the fourth round at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, 7-5 win over 25th-seeded Lorenzo Sonego.
He will next play 17th seed Gael Monfils, who beat No.16 Cristian Garin 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-3.
Kecmanovic had been drawn to play the top-ranked Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, in the first round.
But Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 regulations.
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