Melbourne, Jan 19 (IANS) Spanish stalwart Rafael Nadal made it to the third round of the Australian Open without dropping a set, defeating German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 at the Melbourne Park here on Wednesday.
Playing in only his second tournament since mid-August, Nadal, the winner of 20 Grand Slams, did not need to move into top gear to get the job done against the world No. 126, who used some heavy groundstrokes to sometimes unnerve his opponent.
“Having played him before at Roland Garros I knew that he is dangerous,” Nadal said after the two hour, 42-minute result. “His result against Thanasi (Kokkinakis) in the first round says that he is playing great and coming from the qualies (qualifiers) he was used to the courts. He has big shots, a good serve and has a lot of potential. Today his level was much higher than his ranking says,” Nadal was quoted as saying by atptour.com.
Nadal will next face either Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov of Russia or Benjamin Bonzi of France. The 35-year-old will look to improve his unforced forehand errors in the third round. He is now 5-0 on the season after winning his 89th title at the Melbourne Summer Set, but is yet to be tested by a top-50 player.
Nadal, who has occupied a place in the top-10 of the ATP rankings for 852 consecutive weeks, countered Hanfmann’s powerful shots with heavy topspin off both wings to keep the German pinned deep behind the baseline as much as he could.
Hanfmann had claimed his first Grand Slam match win in the first round on Monday when he stunned Adelaide International 2 champion Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia.
Nadal improved to 71-15 at the year’s first major. Only Roger Federer (102) and Novak Djokovic (82) have more wins at Melbourne Park.
The Spaniard this fortnight is bidding to become the second player in the Open Era after Djokovic to win all majors at least twice. But the bigger milestone is a potential record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title to break the current three-way tie with Federer and Djokovic.
Last year Nadal reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne, falling to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets after winning the first two. That remains just the second time in his career that Nadal has lost a match after leading by two sets.