ATP Australian Open: Rafael Nadal follows Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

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ATP Australian Open: Rafael Nadal follows Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

Facing each other for the fifth time, Rafael Nadal defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 38 minutes to advance into the fourth round of the Australian Open for the 13th time! After a little bit of struggle against Federico Delbonis in the previous round, Nadal was back at his best today on a sunny Rod Laver Arena, finishing the job in no time at all and staying on the title course together with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who passed their third-round duties on Friday.

Dropping only ten points on serve, Nadal never faced a break point and grabbed five from ten opportunities he created, firing an incredible 42 winners and seven unforced errors to leave the fellow Spaniard far behind, happy with the way he performed.

Nadal held in the first game when Carreno Busta sent a forehand wide and broke Pablo at 15 in game two after forcing an error with his backhand. A former champion delivered another nice hold at love in game three to confirm the advantage before Carreno Busta got his name on the scoreboard, reducing the deficit to 3-1.

Rafa responded with an even stronger service game that sent him 4-1 in front, creating four break chances in the next game and seizing the last one when Pablo sprayed a forehand error to secure another break and move closer to the finish line.

Serving for the set, Nadal held at 15 to take the opener 6-1 following a forced error from Carreno Busta, looking good on the court and hoping for more good vibes in the rest of the encounter. Rafa played even better in set number two, firing 15 winners with only two unforced errors and dropping two points behind the initial shot to mount the pressure on the other side of the net.

Again, he broke Carreno Busta twice to control the scoreboard and make another big step towards the place in the next round. Nadal picked up where he left in the first set, securing a break at love in the first game thanks to a loose volley from his opponent, firing four winners in game two to confirm the advantage and stay on a steady course towards the victory.

Pablo also delivered a much-needed hold at love with a service winner in the third game, getting his name on the scoreboard and playing better in the next service games as well to remain within one break deficit. Rafa was still clinical behind the initial shot, landing a service winner in the fourth game to open a 3-1 advantage before the younger Spaniard held at love to reduce the deficit to 3-2.

Nadal closed the sixth game with two service winners and broke the opponent again in the next game thanks to a stunning defense and a forehand winner at the net, serving for the set in the next game. Rafa opened that eighth game with an ace down the T line, placing a forehand down the line winner in the next game and creating three set points with another service winner under his belt.

He converted the second with a smash winner, taking a 6-1, 6-2 advantage after 57 minutes and racing towards the finish line on Rod Laver Arena. Hoping for a fresh start, Carreno Busta held at 15 with a forehand winner in the opening game of the third set, taking the first two points on the return in the second game before Rafa claimed four straight points to defend serve again and level the score at 1-1 with a service winner.

Staying in a good rhythm on serve, Pablo brought the third game home at 15, finding his range in those moments and hoping to finally create some dagame on the return. That didn't happen in the fourth game, though, with Nadal holding at love with a powerful serve to level the score at 2-2 and put the pressure back on his opponent.

Rafa found the way to break his rival in the fifth game, confirming the break with a service winner that pushed him 4-2 in front and closer to the finish line. Pablo held without losing a point in game seven to remain within one break deficit that was still active when Nadal landed an ace in the next game to stay in front.

Serving for the victory at 5-4, Nadal held at love following a backhand error from Carreno Busta to seal the deal and find himself in the last 16 for the 13th time in Melbourne.