Australian Open 2020: Rafael Nadal keeps it simple to avoid blip, Gael Monfils sets up clash with Dominic Thiem

Nadal explained, after beating fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on a warm Saturday afternoon, how he couldn't sleep until after Federer had clinched a fifth-set super tiebreaker on Friday night

The Associated Press January 25, 2020 13:17:20 IST
Australian Open 2020: Rafael Nadal keeps it simple to avoid blip, Gael Monfils sets up clash with Dominic Thiem
  • Nadal hadn't lost to a fellow Spaniard since his first-round shocker in Melbourne against Fernando Verdasco in 2016

  • Rafa will face the winner of the night match involving Nick Kyrgios and 16th-seeded Karen Khachanov

  • One fourth-round meeting is already set, with 10th-seeded Gael Monfils advancing over No. 256-ranked Ernests Gulbis to a match against fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem, who beat American Taylor Fritz

Melbourne: Rafael Nadal was awake at 1 a.m., engrossed in Roger Federer's third-round match at the Australian Open.

The top-ranked Nadal explained, after beating fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on a warm Saturday afternoon, how he couldn't sleep until after Federer had clinched a fifth-set super tiebreaker by winning the last six points to beat Australian John Millman the previous night.

Australian Open 2020 Rafael Nadal keeps it simple to avoid blip Gael Monfils sets up clash with Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal extended his winning streak against fellow Spaniards to 18 matches after beating Pablo Carreno Busta at Australian Open. AP

Federer was able to fight his way through to the second week on a day when 23-time major winner Serena Williams, defending women's champion Naomi Osaka and 2018 winner Caroline Wozniacki all made surprising third-round exits.

There was more to follow in a chaotic third round on Saturday, with women's No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 6 Belinda Bencic also upset in straight sets.

For Nadal, the key was to keep things simple. He hadn't lost to a fellow Spaniard since his first-round shocker here against Fernando Verdasco in 2016. That was the only time since 2006 that he hasn't reached the quarterfinals or better at Melbourne Park, where he won the title in 2009 and has reached four finals since.

"My best match of the tournament so far without a doubt — a very positive thing. Super happy," Nadal said. "Sorry for Pablo, he's a good friend of mine. (But) for me, it's great news I'm in the fourth round."

Nadal changed into a bright pink cap and jacket after the match, accessorising his pink shoes. A fan held up a sign telling Rafa he was "perfect in pink".

Against Carreno Busta, he hit 42 winners and made just 18 unforced errors. He didn't face a break point and didn't serve any double-faults.

"It's true that when the conditions are a little bit warmer, the bounces are a bit higher, the ball is flying, it helps my game," Nadal said. "Today I did very well with my serve — I started to hit some very good forehands down the line. That's a key shot for me."

He acknowledged to the crowd at Rod Laver Arena that he'd watched the Federer-Millman encounter, saying the see-sawing on-court emotions kept him gripped.

He'll be watching a night match involving another Australian on Saturday, too, when Nick Kyrgios takes on 16th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia on Melbourne Arena.

Nadal and Kyrgios are unfriendly rivals — there's been animosity on both side — but the 19-time major winner doesn't buy into hype.

"Both players are great players. Nick always is excited to play here at home. Karen is a player with great potential," he said. "I'm going to enjoy watching."

Australian Open 2020 Rafael Nadal keeps it simple to avoid blip Gael Monfils sets up clash with Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem got past a blip in the fourth set to beat Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open. AP

One fourth-round meeting is already set, with 10th-seeded Gael Monfils advancing 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3 over No. 256-ranked Ernests Gulbis to a match against fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem, who beat American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4. No. 17 Andrey Rublev ousted No. 11 David Goffin 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (4).

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