“If you give me a choice, I prefer to play during the day,” Rafa Nadal said when asked about his preference regarding the time of his match against Karen Khachanov. In the end, it started around 9:25 p.m. local time, when darkness had already settled over Melbourne and the lights were on at Rod Laver Arena. In these conditions, which according to the Balearic make the balls “take less spin”, his “best” performance “so far” in the tournament took hold, as he himself stated before leaving the court, this despite the set he lost on the way to victory: 6-3, 6-3, 3-6 and 6-1 in 2h50.
Nadal played two magnificent sets, missed the third, perhaps because he fell too far behind, and emerged taking a step forward against Khachanov’s serves to close without major complications a victory that puts him in the round of 16 of the Australian Open for the 15th time, a figure with which he is placed second in the historical list of the Open Era behind Federer (18) and now ahead of Djokovic (14). Among all the Grand Slams, he has 51 appearances in the round of 16. On Sunday he will face Mannarino or Karatsev.
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Rafa shone especially in the 28 minutes, a first round in which he only lost one point with his service, with a second, he placed 12 winners and accumulated just five unforced errors. In addition, he made a couple of those points that lift viewers out of their seats. At the Rod Laver Arena they had a blast with Nadal’s antics, also in the second set, when he hit a sliced volley midcourt after hThe 25-year-old Russian, ranked 30th in the world, has made a slacker, who prepares the right in an unorthodox way, which is a bit creepy.
Action and reaction
The third set escaped the Spaniard when Khachanov became the first tennis player capable of breaking his serve so far in the championship. The Muscovite grew up with the support of an audience that wanted more entertainment and proudly faced the fourth. What he perhaps did not expect was Nadal’s tactical reaction, who decided to subtract later, served well again and snacked on his rival in a seen and not seen with the occasional excellent drive and the backhand crossed and cut as a weapon to be able to reverse and hit him viciously with rights. He was so focused that he didn’t care that the first change of sides he dropped a bottle of water. There will be those who say that the winner of 20 Grand Slams is not here to add 21, but the most prudent thing is not to rule it out.
Australian Open Men’s Draw.