Rafael Nadal’s ailing back is getting put in the rearview mirror. Last night in Melbourne, the 20-time Grand Slam champion looked good in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over American qualifier Michael Mmoh.
“I always try to be better. Sometimes better, sometimes not,” said Nadal about going from his first match to second. “I think tonight has been a positive evening for me, winning in straight sets. Great news, for everything.”
About the only issue for Nadal was an unruly fan who caused a stir late in the second set.
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) February 11, 2021
Nadal now meets fellow lefty Cameron Norrie of Great Britain.
“Won two good matches,” said Nadal. “Gonna be the toughest test, without a doubt. I need to be playing at high level if I want to keep having chances to be through. And I am looking forward to try to make that happen.”
Nadal’s potential quarterfinal opponent could be Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek star figured to have an easy afternoon after the oft-injured Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis. Instead, it turned into a 4-hour, 32-minute war on Rod Laver won by Tsitsipas 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4.
“Great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion,” said Tsitsipas who was just 5/22 on break points. “I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirit.
“I think he has a huge forehand, very good serve,” he added. “All the potential is there. I really hope he stays injury-free, because it can be very frustrating. I have dealt with it, and I know it’s very difficult mentally to go through things like this. I just wish him good health and that he can compete an entire year without any pain or anything bothering him.”
The powerful Russian trio of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov went 9-0 in sets. Medevedev celebrated his 25th birthday upping his win streak to 16 after a victory over Roberto Carballes Baena.
“I have the momentum and I feel like I can do a lot things,” said Medvedev. “I hope I can keep it up. So far it’s working and I hope it doesn’t stop. There’s no time to celebrate my birthday in a tournament. I got presents from my wife, but I’ll soon look to my next match.”
In the most interesting match of the day, the first all-Italian men’s match in the Open Era at the Australian Open turned into a thriller as Fabio Fognini outlasted Salvatore Caruso 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(12), saving a match point in the process.
The drama continued after the two met at the net with Fognini telling Caruso he was lucky on many of his shots. Caruso wasn’t please and the two continued jawing at each other long after the last point.
Full transcript of the Fognini Caruso exchange after the match was over pic.twitter.com/zSl62j5VwQ
— enrico maria riva (@enricomariariva) February 11, 2021
The third round starts on Friday in Melbourne with Novak Djokovic meeting his second straight American in Taylor Fritz. Denis Shapovalov and countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime resume their rivalry. Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov return and all eyes in the tennis world will be on Nick Kyrgios who is back on his home court John Cain Arena to meet Dominic Thiem.
FRIDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
SABALENKA, Aryna (BLR)  vs. LI, Ann (USA)
Not before: 1:00 PM
POTAPOVA, Anastasia (RUS) vs. WILLIAMS, Serena (USA) 
MANNARINO, Adrian (FRA)  vs. ZVEREV, Alexander (GER) 
KUDERMETOVA, Veronika (RUS)  vs. HALEP, Simona (ROU) 
DJOKOVIC, Novak (SRB)  vs. FRITZ, Taylor (USA) 
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