Rafael Nadal drops his first set of the Australian Open but recovers to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for a 15th time; Matteo Berrettini holds off a surging fightback from 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz to win on a dramatic deciding tie-break
Last Updated: 21/01/22 2:18pm
Rafael Nadal dropped his first set at this year’s Australian Open but still powered through to the fourth round with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 defeat of Karen Khachanov on Friday.
Nadal, who is in contention to win a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, went into the match boasting a 7-0 record against Russian Khachanov and having lost just one set.
The Spaniard, who has looked sharp despite his lengthy absence with a foot problem, eased through the first two sets under the lights on Rod Laver Arena but Khachanov threatened to turn the match on its head when he took the third.
However, Nadal moved ahead again early in the fourth, celebrating exuberantly when he broke serve, and went on to claim a fine victory 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1.
The sixth seed was happy with his performance, saying: “It’s a very special week for me coming back from where I’m coming. Every single time I’m able to play here is a very special thing.
“Tonight I played against a great player and a good friend on tour. It has been without a doubt my best match since I came back. Nights like today mean everything. It’s a lot of energy in my pocket to keep fighting every single day.”
Alexander Zverev admitted he had been far from perfect but still eased through without dropping a set after a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over Radu Albot on John Cain Arena.
The world No 3, still seeking the Grand Slam title that many have predicted for him, struggled with his serve at times but got the job done against the 32-year-old Romanian qualifier.
“Radu is [in] great form at the moment, he’s obviously feeling the ball well, so happy to close it out in three sets,” said Zverev.
“Of course, I had much struggles on the court today, it didn’t feel perfect. But who is perfect? At the end of the day I won and I’m happy with that.”
Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini staved off a strong challenge from 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz to win a huge battle 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 2-6 7-6 (10-5).
Berrettini rolled his ankle and crashed to the ground while 1-0 up in the decider but soldiered on after a medical timeout and closed out the victory when Alcaraz double faulted in the super tie-break.
The Italian heaped praise on his opponent afterwards, saying: “He’s unbelievable. At his age I didn’t even have an ATP point. He’s impressive. He can only improve playing matches like this. He showed everyone today his potential – luckily today I won, but congrats to him.”
Miomir Kecmanovic expected his Australian Open to be shortlived when he was drawn to face defending champion Novak Djokovic in the first round, but the world No 1 and his troubles have seen his fellow Serb profit with an unexpected run to the last 16.
Kecmanovic defeated 25th seed Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 6-7 (8-10) 6-2 7-5 to advance to the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time in his career, where he will meet Gael Monfils after the Frenchman’s win over Chile’s Cristian Garin.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Kecmanovic, who is ranked 77th in the world. “A week ago I was supposed to play the world number one and didn’t have much of a chance there, but now I’m in the last 16, so I’m happy that I was able to use this chance and that I’ve been playing some really good tennis.
“It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings”
“I didn’t have much pressure just because I felt that I got a second chance, so I just wanted to use it the best that I can. I’ve obviously been showing that well up until now.”