ATP Australian Open: Rafael Nadal beats Karen Khachanov and remains on title course



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ATP Australian Open: Rafael Nadal beats Karen Khachanov and remains on title course

The 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal is through to the last 16 at the Australian Open following a 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 victory over Karen Khachanov in two hours and 50 minutes. Nadal beat Khachanov for the eighth time in as many encounters, playing well in sets he won and moving into the last 16 in Melbourne for the 15th time.

Rafa lost 19 points behind the initial shot and got broken once from five chances offered to Karen. The Spaniard grabbed 40% of the return points and converted them in five breaks from 15 opportunities. World no. 6 hit 39 winners and 30 unforced errors, losing ground a bit in set number three and bouncing back stronger in the fourth to emerge at the top.

Khachanov stayed in touch with Nadal in the most extended exchanges, and Rafa forged his victory in the shortest and mid-range rallies, where he had a clear upper hand. Nadal held at love in the opening service game with a service winner and fired a backhand crosscourt winner in game two for an early break at 15.

Rafael Nadal is through to the last 16 in Melbourne.

The Spaniard held at love again in game three to confirm the lead and open a 3-0 advantage before holding at love for the third straight time in game five with a volley winner for 4-1 in 14 minutes.

Serving for the opener at 5-3, Nadal fired an unreturned serve for a hold at 15 and 6-3 in 28 minutes. The second set's opening game offered seven deuces, and Rafa seized the fourth break chance with a deep return to forge an early advantage.

From 40-15 up, Nadal faced a break point in the fourth game after an extended rally on Khachanov's tally. Rafa saved it with a service winner and landed a volley winner to bring the game home and open a 3-1 gap. Nadal broke at 15 in game five to extend the lead and held with an unreturned serve at 5-2 to forge two sets to love lead in 80 minutes.

Karen saved a break point at 1-1 in the third set and broke for the first and only time in the next one from 40-0 down to move in front. Both players saved break chances in games five and six, and the Russian held at love at 5-3 with an unreturned serve to wrap up the set and force the fourth.

Rafa bounced back and dropped only a couple of points behind the initial shot to keep the pressure on the other side. The Spaniard in game two with a backhand down the line winner and held with a service winner for a 3-0 advantage.

Rafa broke again at 4-1 thanks to a forehand crosscourt winner and moved over the top a few minutes later with a hold at love.