20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal is through to the round of 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 meetings, playing well in the sets he won and reaching the round of 16 in Melbourne for the 15th time.
Rafa dropped 19 points on serve and was broken once in five chances offered to Karen. The Spaniard took 40% of the return points and converted them in five breaks from 15 chances. The world number six hit 39 game winners and 30 unforced errors, losing a bit of ground in set number three and coming back stronger in set four to emerge on top.
Khachanov kept in contact with Nadal in the longer exchanges, and Rafa forged victory from him in the shorter and medium rallies, where he had a clear advantage. Nadal authoritatively won the opening service game and fired a backhand crosscourt winner in the second game for an early break.
The Spaniard kept blank again in game three to confirm the lead and open a 3-0 lead before keeping blank for the third consecutive time in game five with a 4-1 volley winner in 14 minutes. Serving for the first set at 5-3, Nadal fired an unreturned serve to hold at 15 and make it 6-3 in 28 minutes.
The first game of the second set offered seven deuces, and Rafa converted the fourth break chance with a deep return to carve out an early lead.
Nadal has dealt with a string of injuries over the years
Rafael Nadal beat Karen Khachanov in four sets on Friday to reach the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open.
"Every single day. For a lot of months, sometimes I went on court with the team and was not able to practice for 20 minutes, nowadays for 45 minutes, and then sometimes I was able to practice for two hours. It was very difficult to predict every single day and I was working with the doctor, trying to find a solution.
I was trying different things, it is tough." Rafael Nadal has dealt with a string of injuries over the years, and has managed to come back strongly every time. "Even though I went through that process a couple of times in my career, I always say the same," Nadal said.
"The injuries are much easier to accept when you know that you have a calendar. Now, if you twist your ankle or break your wrist; I did a couple of times in my career, then you know it will be three months," he added.
"You have an agenda and every week, you do a different thing. But with injuries, honestly, it's much tougher now because everyday, you go to the gym and to the court and without improvement, mentally it's much tougher."