x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Rafael Nadal breezes through to next round of Australian Open

The Spaniard extends his unbeaten run in grand slam tennis to 23 matches after defeating Ryan Sweeting 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

Rafael Nadal dropped just four games in his second-round match against Ryan Sweeting.
Rafael Nadal dropped just four games in his second-round match against Ryan Sweeting.

MELBOURNE // Rafael Nadal extended his grand slam winning streak to 23 matches, continuing his pursuit of holding all four majors at the same time with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win over the American qualifier Ryan Sweeting to reach the third-round of the Australian Open.

The top-ranked Nadal has conceded only four games en route to the third-round, sealing his win over Sweeting today with another of his rifling forehands.

After retiring with an injury in the quarter-finals at the last Australian Open, Nadal rebounded to win the French, Wimbledon and US Open.

Nadal hit some shots that Sweeting could barely believe, including an ace to finish the first set and forehand on set point in the second when the Spaniard's curling shot caught the baseline for the winner. Sweeting challenged the call as he walked off, but the call stood.

The only hint of anything other than complete domination for Nadal came in the third set, when Sweeting broke serve in the fifth game and then had game points to bring it back to 4-2 in a game that went to deuce five times. Again, Nadal held on to convert a break and served out in the next game.

"I feel good. Today the serve started to work much better," Nadal said. "Only one [bad] moment, when the sun came in my eyes," Nadal said. "It was a positive victory for me, an important victory."

All the coverage of his attempt to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four majors had no influence on Nadal's mindset.

"No, for sure, it's not a distraction," he said. "It's the last thing I'm thinking about right now. I'm trying to find my best level."

Kim Clijsters showed why she's fast becoming a hot favourite for the women's title by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.

US Open champion Clijsters opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over the former world No 1 Dinara Safina, but Suarez Navarro was a potentially dangerous second-round match-up. The 22-year-old Spaniard beat Venus Williams in a second-round upset in her first trip to Melbourne Park two years ago.

"She is a tough player. She's tricky. The balls bounce so much different than for my first round," Clijsters said. "I was just happy with the way that I played. I tried to play both sides of the court, tried to be aggressive and dictate the points. And it worked."

With defending champion Serena Williams not playing in Australia due to a prolonged foot problem, third-seeded Clijsters is hopeful of going one better than her previous best performance at Melbourne Park — she lost the 2004 final.

Her third-round 6-0, 6-1 loss here to Nadia Petrova last year was her worst in a major. It's a defeat she claims she does not dwell on and doesn't think will influence her preparations for the same stage this weekend.

"I don't think I've ever played a match like that. So it was very easy in a way to also forget about it, as well," Clijsters said.

Joining her in the third round from the bottom half of the draw were No 10 Shahar Peer, who beat Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-2 and No 22 Flavia Pennetta, who beat Lourdes Dominguez 6-2, 6-2.