Playing against each other on the big stage for the second time, the world no. 2 and 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal has defeated the 27th seed Alex de Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes. Nadal will play in the last 16 of the Australian Open for the 12th time, securing his 250th Grand Slam wins and the 58th in Melbourne, moving two clear from Stefan Edberg who stayed on 56.
The Spaniard served at 75% and despite the problems on the second serve he was never in doubt in his games, fending off all four break points to keep his initial shot intact and charging on the return to forge the win in straight sets.
Alex couldn’t follow that pace, unable to deliver easy points with his initial shot and losin the backhand to backhand rallies against the rival who was very aggressive and determined to play the match under his terms.
The Spaniard fired 37 winners and 33 unforced errors while the Aussie stood on a 21-24 ratio, losing the first match after seven straight wins and too much tennis he has played throughout the last 12 days or so. Serving at 78% in the opening set, Nadal had the upper hand on his side and outside one break point he faced it was all about him in the first part of the match, taming the rival’s serve to break him twice from six opportunities.
Alex was forced to save four break points already in his first service game, which is never a good sign, before creating that lone chance on the return in game three that Nadal fends off with a forehand that landed right on the baseline.
Rafa made a move in the very next game when he broke at 15 for a 3-1 after a great forehand down the line that de Minaur failed to control, gaining the momentum and moving 5-1 in front after a backhand error from the youngster in game six.
A comfortable hold a few minutes later sent Nadal over the top, taking a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter. The Spaniard landed 86% of the first serve in set number two and that granted him the advantage once again, saving all three break points he faced at 5-2 and mounting the pressure on his opponent all the time.
The first game was by far the longest of the match and Rafa converted the fifth break point after nine deuces when Alex sent a forehand long, delivering one comfortable hold after another and extending the gap to 4-1 when he broke at love in game five.
Trailing 5-2, de Minaur finally found the way to make something significant on the return, forging three break chances but squandering them all, two after good serves from Rafa who cemented the set after another service winner that propelled him 6-1, 6-2 up in an hour and 28 minutes.
There was nothing Alex could do to change the course of the match, suffering a break in the opening game of the third set thanks to a deep return from Rafa who only had to serve well to complete this test and advance into the next round.
Alex gave his best to stay within that one break deficit and he certainly played some rock solid tennis after giving his serve away, making four straight holds without facing a break point to force Nadal to serve for the win at 5-4.
Just like in the rest of tonight’s challenge in general, Rafa blasted five winners in that 10th game to secure the win after three deuces and march into the last 16 where he will face Tomas Berdych. Third round result:
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-1 6-2 6-4