Aussie Open: Second Seeds Nadal, Kerber Power Through To Third Round

Jan 16 - by AFP for SportPesa News

The Spaniard, who cut short his 2018 season to have surgery on a foot injury, raced through the tie in just 116 minutes

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after his second round match against Matthew Ebden of Australia during day three of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. PHOTO/GettyImages

  • A dominant Rafael Nadal overwhelmed Australia's Matthew Ebden in straight sets to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday and stay on track for an 18th Grand Slam title
  • The 32-year-old's newly remodelled serve only briefly came under pressure from Ebden, 31, who enjoyed vociferous home support on Rod Laver Arena before losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
  • Second seed Angelique Kerber dominated Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia to easily reach the Australian Open third round on Wednesday

MELBOURNE, Australia- A dominant Rafael Nadal overwhelmed Australia's Matthew Ebden in straight sets to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday and stay on track for an 18th Grand Slam title.

The Spaniard, who cut short his 2018 season to have surgery on a foot injury, raced through the tie in just 116 minutes.

The 32-year-old's newly remodelled serve only briefly came under pressure from Ebden, 31, who enjoyed vociferous home support on Rod Laver Arena before losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

The Australian forced three break points at 3-2 in the first set, but could convert none before the second seed reeled off four games in a row to close it out in 35 minutes.

It was one-way traffic from then on as Nadal, sporting a trademark sleeveless shirt, cruised into the last 32.

"I played a solid match, I was happy with the way I served. I did a few things very well," said Nadal, who next plays Australian 27th seed Alex de Minaur. "It is an honour to play here. Was a great atmosphere."

Nadal pulled out of his Brisbane warm-up event two weeks ago with a thigh strain but showed no sign of the injury woes that saw him limp out of both the Australian Open and US Open last year.

"I don't know if it's that good," said Nadal modestly after a dominant performance. "I just came back from injury so it is not easy to evaluate yet."

He is bidding to become the first man in the Open era, and only third in history along with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions.

Unforced errors

Second seed Angelique Kerber dominated Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia to easily reach the Australian Open third round on Wednesday.

The German Wimbledon champion produced a clinical display to advance 6-2, 6-3 in humid conditions.

"It was a tough match, she played really well and I knew that I had to play my best tennis," the three-time Grand Slam champion said.

Kerber shut fellow left-hander Haddad Maia out of the first set, with the frustrated Brazilian hitting 13 winners to seven but unable to match her opponent's consistency. 

The German committed only six unforced errors to 29 and racked up an 80 percent success rate on second serve. 

Haddad Maia lifted as the second set began and Kerber had to wait until the eighth game to go up a break, then proceeded to serve out the match.

Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, will meet Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell next.

She was wary of the threat posed by the 20-year-old, who will be cheered on by a wildly parochial crowd at Melbourne Park.

"I saw a bit of her match, she played really well, she's on the third round," she said.

"She's playing at home, I'll have to play at my best again."

Kerber is on course for a quarter-final clash with fifth seeded American Sloane Stephens if results go as expected.

She reached the semi-finals at the season-opening Grand Slam last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.