An unexpected opportunity has opened up for Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open — and he is trying to look upon it all as a bonus.
Nadal is the only previous Melbourne champion in the men’s field, but his recent issues with foot injuries and a pre-Christmas bout of Covid make him view his pursuit of a 21st Grand Slam title in a phlegmatic fashion.
Britain’s four remaining singles players were all due to be in action on Thursday morning, but Nadal — trying to get ahead of the absent Novak Djokovic — was safely into the last 32.
An unexpected opportunity has opened up for Rafael Nadal (above) at the Australian Open
‚I’m excited about the fact that I’m going to be playing in a third round for one more time here after all the things I have gone through,‘ he said after breezing past Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
‚I don’t have big pressure on my shoulders, honestly. I don’t feel it. The pressure is only to stay healthy and to enjoy the fact that I am competing again, then give my best as I did during all my tennis career. When you get older the watch never stops, no?‘
He may be more properly examined next against the hulking Russian, Karen Khachanov.
The 35-year-old star (above) is the only previous Melbourne champion in the men’s field
Nadal (right) has already breezed past Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann (left) 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
After three days, the Rod Laver Arena had seen 14 matches decided in straight sets.
Top seed Ash Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka were among those progressing on Wednesday with a minimum of fuss.
Such predictable early days in a Grand Slam have become more common since the introduction of 32 seeds. The biggest casualty was No 10, Wimbleton semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz, who fell in straight sets to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Nadal can genuinely claim that he is not the men’s tournament favourite. That is Daniil Medvedev, who was facing an enthralling test on Thursday morning against the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios.
He may be more properly examined next against the hulking Russian, Karen Khachanov
Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu is due to face world No 98 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro
At about 8.15am (UK time) Emma Raducanu is due to face world No 98 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.
Victory would see her reach the third round of her first three Grand Slam events.
Kovinic was well beaten last week by Heather Watson, who earlier on Thursday was playing Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.
Andy Murray was paired against unseeded Japanese player Taro Daniel and Dan Evans was facing Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech.