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Top seed Barty powers through as Nadal eventually quells qualifier in Australian Open

With defending champion Novak Djokovic out of season’s first Grand Slam, the men’s draw has opened up for Spanish veteran Rafa Nadal.

6th seed Rafa Nadal.
6th seed Rafa Nadal.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

WOMEN’S TOP SEED Ashleigh Barty took a step closer to a potential fourth-round showdown with Naomi Osaka with a second flawless display at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal ramped up his march towards a men’s record 21st Grand Slam crown, but needed five match points to put away a tenacious qualifier and reach the third round.

The impressive Barty, chasing a first title at her home Slam, barely broke sweat as she breezed past Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1, 6-1 in just 52 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The ultra-consistent Barty, who won the singles and doubles titles at a lead-up tournament in Adelaide, hasn’t dropped her serve for 48 straight games over five matches this year.

“I felt like we had a good preparation in Adelaide. We played well, played throughout tough matches. (My coach) Craig Tyzzer is the master,” said the two-time Grand Slam champion, the hot favourite in Melbourne.

“I feel like our whole team works extremely well together. We’re enjoying our tennis and being able to produce some pretty good stuff.”

Barty, who won Wimbledon last year, is potentially one victory away from a last-16 showdown with defending champion Osaka, who plays American Madison Brengle in Wednesday’s night session.

But first Barty will have a much tougher task in the third round on Friday against seasoned Italian 30th seed Camila Giorgi, who beat Czech Tereza Martincova 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).

“She is an incredible ball striker and one of the most athletic girls out there,” said world number one Barty of Giorgi.

In-form eighth seed Paula Badosa, who won the Sydney warm-up tournament, also breezed through against an Italian qualifier, Martina Trevisan, 6-0, 6-3.

It was Badosa’s seventh match in 10 days but the Spaniard said she was holding up well.

“(I feel) pretty good,” said the new world number six, who only broke into the top 20 for the first time in October last year.

“It wasn’t an easy match. It was a tricky match against Martina. We know each other since long time. She’s a fighter. I’m pretty happy about the win today.”

With defending champion Novak Djokovic deported on the eve of the season’s first Grand Slam, the men’s draw has opened up for Spanish veteran Nadal.

The 20-time Slam winner, who recently won his first tournament after five months out battling a foot injury, was never troubled by Yannick Hanfmann until the end of the third set.

Down 3-5, 0-40, the German world number 126 fought back to extend the contest and saved two more match points before finally succumbing 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena.

Next up for the 35-year-old Nadal is either Russian 28th seed Karen Khachanov or Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.

Nadal, the sixth seed, could face third seed Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals but he is refusing to look that far ahead.

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“I don’t know, I am in the third round, I need to win very tough matches to be there,” he said.

“I never think that far. You can imagine now less than ever, no?” he added, an apparent nod to his recent injury struggles. Nadal also had Covid last month.

Olympic champion Zverev later plays Australia’s John Millman, who will garner plenty of partisan vocal support in a late-night encounter on Rod Laver Arena.

Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, who endured frequent toilet trips in a gutsy four-set win on Monday, defeated American Stefan Kozlov and plays teenage 31st seed Carlos Alcaraz.

Also through, in five sets over Korean Kwon Soon-woo, was Canadian 14th seed Denis Shapovalov.

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