Australian Open: Rafael Nadal beats Karen Khachanov in fourth round

Rafael Nadal had not competed in a tour-level event since August, when he suffered a foot injury in Washington.

Rafael Nadal in a file photo. (Image: Twitter/Australian Open)

Rafael Nadal survived a third-set barrage from Karen Khachanov on Friday to keep up his unbeaten start to the season, winning 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the 15th time. Nadal had not competed in a tour-level event since August, when he suffered a foot injury in Washington. However, he has been playing as if he hasn’t been away, as his victory over Khachanov extended his perfect 2022 record to 6-0.

The Spaniard, who won his 89th tour-level title at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month, only dropped one point on serve in the first set against Khachanov and came back from losing only his second ever set against the Russian to advance after two hours and 50 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

After winning the Australian Open in 2009, Nadal is aiming for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam championship in Melbourne. He hit 39 winners and made 30 unforced errors in his ATPHead2Head series versus Khachanov, improving to 8-0. In a nasty heavy-hitting performance, the Spaniard snatched time away from Khachanov in the first two sets with his relentless topspin ball striking, dragging the 25-year-old one way and then the other as he pinned him behind the baseline.

Read More – Australian Open: Alexander Zverev breezes past Radu Albot in third round

Khachanov wins one set

As they entered the third set, the 13-time Roland Garros champion, who had already broken Khachanov five times, appeared to be on his way to a straightforward victory. However, after losing service for the first point in the tournament at 1-2, 40/0, Nadal lost serve for the first time in the match as Khachanov began to close the net to great effect. With his tremendous striking, the Russian continued to unsettle the sixth seed, and he got a foothold in the match by holding to love to seal the set.

However, this just served to energise Nadal, who broke in spectacular fashion at the opening of the fourth set with a backhand pass down the line. Before sprinting to the finish line to progress, the former World No. 1 let out a roar and punched the air in excitement.
In the final 16, the World No. 5 will face either 18th seed Aslan Karatsev or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Nadal is the only player to have reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park more than Roger Federer (18).

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