Rafael Nadal's level is rising with the passing of the shifts. The former world number 1 broke the pass for the round of 16 of the Australian Open 2022 by beating Karen Khachanov in four sets. The Spanish champion dominated the match in the first two sets, only to suffer a slight drop in performance in the third quarter.
The Russian took courage and managed to extend the contest to the fourth, where all the experience of the 20-time Grand Slam champion came out. The 35-year-old from Manacor will now face Adrian Mannarino for a place in the quarter-finals.
2021 was a difficult year for the Majorcan, limited to just seven official tournaments due to the exacerbation of a chronic foot problem. Rafa posted a couple of trophies on his beloved clay court, but failed the assault on his 14th Roland Garros.
His race stopped in the semifinals at the hands of Novak Djokovic. At a press conference in Melbourne, Nadal was questioned about the tremendous progress he has made on hardcourt.
Nadal on his hard-court game
"Of course, I was not the best player on hard because for a lot of moments of my career probably Roger and Novak had been a little bit better than me on this surface, without a doubt," Rafael Nadal said.
"But I was able to compete well during all these years, was able to win a couple of very important tournaments." Nadal also asserted that he has always made a concerted effort to improve his game on surfaces other than clay.
"I think during all my tennis career I have been improving in all the surfaces," the Spaniard said. "That was always my goal, to be a better player in general terms." The 35-year-old also listed some key factors behind his improved hardcourt performances over the years, which have helped him win as many as five Slams on the surface.
"But I think I improved my serve, I improved my return, my position on court, a little bit the understanding," Nadal said. "I probably understand better the game on hard later in my career than in the beginning."
The Spaniard is through to the fourth round of the Grand Slam. Thus, he will face French player Adrian Mannarino at the Rod Laver Arena in an attempt to reach the quarter-finals. Nadal, in his interview after the third match, talked about his performance on hard courts, and his conscious improvement on the surface.