Nadal marches on; Djokovic injured

Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines — World number two Rafael Nadal accelerated his pursuit of a record 21st Grand Slam title Saturday with a testing victory over Cameron Norrie in an Australian Open battle of the left-handers.

The Spanish second seed has altered his service motion due to lower-back tightness, but it didn’t stop him emphatically demolishing his first two opponents in straight sets.

Britain’s 69th-ranked Norrie proved a tougher assignment, with Nadal pressed much harder before emerging a 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 winner in an empty Rod Laver Arena as Melbourne went into a five-day coronavirus lockdown.

It put him into a Slam last 16 for the 49th time, behind only Roger Federer (67) and Novak Djokovic (53).

“All the matches are tough... I didn’t convert the opportunities I had at the beginning of every set, so then the situation becomes a little bit more difficult,” he said.

Nadal, who next faces fiery Italian Fabio Fognini, who beat Australian Alex de Minaur in straight sets, is bidding to win his 21st major title and claim sole ownership of the men’s record, which he currently shares with Federer.

His victory keeps him on course to meet Djokovic in the final, although the defending champion is under an injury cloud after suffering what he called an abdominal “muscle tear” in his third-round clash on Friday.

It remains unclear whether the top-seeded Serb will be able to play his fourth-round match against Milos Raonic on Sunday.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova had a racquet-smashing tantrum en route to a 7-5, 7-5 defeat by fellow Czech Karolina Muchova.

Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina beat Yulia Putintseva, 6-4, 6-0, and Russia’s men’s fourth seed Daniil Medvedev overcame buttock pain and a mid-match lapse in his 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0 win over Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

“It’s a different atmosphere, different vibe,” said Greece’s world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas, after his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Mikael Ymer.          


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