Rafael Nadal made an impressive statement by beating Australian Alex de Minaur in little over two hours at the Australian Open.
Spain’s Nadal, 32, converted his sixth match point to win 6-1 6-2 6-4 in their third-round match in Melbourne.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion dominated on serve, winning 82% of points on first serve.
That allowed him to attack 19-year-old De Minaur’s serve, breaking five times on his way into the last 16.
De Minaur, seeded 27th, provided incredible resistance to save five match points in the final game, eventually succumbing to the sixth – after Nadal received a time violation from umpire Carlos Ramos – when he clubbed a forehand long.
“He’s a big fighter and super quick, probably the fastest on the tour. I played a great game until 40-0,” Rafeal Nadal Nadal said.
“I played a solid match and want to congratulate Alex for a great start to the season. I think he has a great future.”
De Minaur, who went into the match with a seven-match winning streak after claiming his maiden ATP title in Sydney last week, said he was proud of his performance in what had been a “great Aussie summer”.
“I was disappointed not to perform a bit better but that’s what Rafa does to you,” he added. “But I got better as the match went on and I fought to the end. “He served well. His first-serve percentage was scary. They were decent-paced first serves, as well.”
Rafael Nadal, who won the Australian Open in 2009, will face unseeded Czech Tomas Berdych next on Sunday.
Former Wimbledon finalist Berdych has dropped down the rankings after injury problems, but has shown signs of rediscovering his best form this year, including a dominant win over British number one Kyle Edmund in the first round.
The world number 57 fought back to beat Argentine 18th seed Diego Schwartzman in his third-round match. In front of an enthusiastic home crowd in the night-time session on Rod Laver Arena, De Minaur hoped to make statement by pushing one of the all-time greats.
That never materialised as Nadal made his intentions clear from virtually the start.
Rafael Nadal was unable to capitalise on four break points in De Minaur’s opening serving game – although he fought off one himself in the third game.
He then dropped just four more points as he knocked off the next five games to take the first set.
A 16-minute opening game in the second set ended with Nadal converting his fifth break point, enabling him to go on and take a two-set lead in under 90 minutes.
De Minaur offered more resistance in the third, particularly in that entertaining final flurry, but departed to a standing ovation to leave wildcards Alex Bolt and Alexei Popyrin as Australia’s remaining hopes in the men’s singles.