Rafael Nadal breezes to victory over American Michael Mmoh; Stefanos Tsitsipas fends off impressive Thanasi Kokkinakis in five sets; 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez records landmark win at 75th straight Slam; Fabio Fognini beats Salvatore Caruso before Italians engage in heated exchange
Thursday 11 February 2021 13:35, UK
Rafael Nadal continued his march towards what would be a record 21st Grand Slam title as he brushed aside American qualifier Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to pencil in a third round meeting with Britain's Cameron Norrie at the Australian Open.
The Spaniard, who is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam twice, hit 40 winners and won 84 percent of his first-serve points to power to victory in one hour and 47 minutes
Nadal needed just 27 minutes to wrap up a dominant first set, before sealing a break at 2-2 in the second to quash Mmoh's pursuit of a response. He continued to prove immoveable at the net in the third, eventually serving for the victory.
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Play came to a momentary halt at the end of the second set when a fan in the crowd was escorted out of Rod Laver Arena after heckling Nadal and making a rude hand gesture in his direction, to which the second seed could only laugh and ask 'What, me?'.
"I always try to be better, sometimes it happens and sometimes not," said Nadal of his performance post-match. "It's a positive feeling winning in straight sets. I wish Michael all the very best for the rest of the season. I'll focus on what's coming.
"I heard about him (Michael), and I always have a lot of respect for every opponent. Yesterday on my day off I was watching some videos of him on YouTube trying to know a little bit more about him and every day when you go on court, anything can happen, you can win, you can lose you need to be ready."
Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was taken down to the wire by Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis as he eventually clinched a 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-7(5) 6-4 victory in four hours and 32 minutes to book a third-round matchup with Sweden's Mikael Ymer, who beat Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6(5).
"I just want to go for an ice bath right now," said Tsitsipas in his on-court interview. "Thanasi is a great competitor and fighter. It was extremely difficult to face him today, he has huge potential. He is a greater server and has huge shots from the baseline. I know he wasn't able to play for many years, but I'm pleased to see him back competing at a very high level."
While his day ended in defeat, Kokkinakis delivered yet another reminder of the talent that has been hindered so disappointingly by injury setbacks in recent years. The 24-year-old has played just 73 tour-level matches since turning professional in 2013 and just five tour-level events since the 2019 Australian Open. Should he manage to stay fit the World No. 267 will no doubt be eyeing a return to the top 100, at the very least.
In his 75th consecutive Grand Slam, 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez became oldest man to reach the third round of a major since Ken Rosewall in 1978 as he came from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.
He will meet Andrey Rublev in the next round after the 23-year-old coasted to a 6-4 6-4 7-6 (10-8) victory over Brazilian Thiago Monteiro.
Fellow Russian Karen Khachanov meanwhile saw off Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis in a 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory to set up a meeting with Matteo Berrettini, who earlier in the day beat Czech Tomas Machac 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3.
Fabio Fognini came out on top in an all-Italian clash clash with Salvatore Caruso, winning 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6(14-12) before appearing to call his countrymen 'lucky' as the pair exchanged heated words while returning to their benches after the match.
Fourth-seed Daniil Medvedev extended his unbeaten run to 16 matches with a 6-2 7-5 6-1 victory over Carballes Baena, and there was also a comfortable win for Australian Alex de Minaur, who beat Greece's Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-3 7-5.
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