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SPORTS UPDATE

Australian Open: Rafael Nadal beats Karen Khachanov to reach last 16

Rafael Nadal continued his pursuit of a record-breaking 21st major title by beating Karen Khachanov in four sets to reach the Australian Open fourth round.

Nadal, the 2009 champion and five-time finalist, defeated Russian 28th seed Khachanov 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 in Melbourne.

The Spanish sixth seed faces Russia’s 18th seed Aslan Karatsev or France’s Adrian Mannarino in the last 16.

German third seed Alexander Zverev and Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini both also reached the fourth round.

Berrettini overcame Spanish prospect, Carlos Alcaraz, in an enthralling five-set battle, after the Spanish 18-year-old – the youngest man in the draw – fought back from two sets down.

Berrettini held his nerve to win the deciding tie-break 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 2-6 7-6 (10-5) on the Rod Laver Arena.

Zverev had a more straightforward passage into the last 16, seeing off Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot 6-3 6-4 6-4.

The 35-year-old, is the only former Melbourne champion remaining in the men’s draw – although his sole Australian Open title came 13 years ago.

With the absence of fellow 20-time Grand Slam winners Novak Djokovic, deported over his vaccine status after having his visa revoked, and Switzerland’s Federer, who is recovering from injury, this tournament offers Nadal a major opportunity.

Having won the Melbourne Summer Set in the build-up to the tournament, he has made a flying start on his Grand Slam return following a five-month lay-off because of a foot injury and is yet to drop a set after three matches.

Nadal, who described it as “my best match since I came back”, raced 3-0 ahead and dropped only one point on his serve in a devastating opening set.

He carried that momentum into the second set, breaking Khachanov in the opening game. It was not all plain sailing – the Russian creating a break opportunity when trailing 2-1 – but the imperious Nadal responded by winning three consecutive games.

Khachanov battled on admirably, however, and saved a break point early in the third set before breaking Nadal for the first time, from 40-0 down, for a 3-1 lead.

The Russian survived three break points in the following game and although he was unable to clinch three of his own when 4-1 up, it did not prove costly as he forced a fourth set.

The set-back brought a determined reaction from Nadal, who sealed a double break with a ferocious cross-court forehand before serving out the match.

BBC

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