MELBOURNE: Top seed Rafael Nadal continued his relentless progress through the Australian Open draw on Thursday, muscling his way into the third round with a commanding 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-1 victory over Argentine Federico Delbonis.
The Spaniard, hunting for a second Australian Open title 11 years after his first, has now lost only three sets in his last nine matches at Melbourne Park, all in his defeat to Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.
World number 76 Delbonis never looked like adding to that tally in the two and a half hour contest on Rod Laver Arena, particularly as he was unable to muster up as much as a single break point against the 19-times Grand Slam champion.
The world number one was a little profligate with his breakpoints – converting only three of 20 – but still comfortably moved through to a meeting with compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta.
Showman Kyrgios powers
into third round
Nick Kyrgios breezed past Frenchman Gilles Simon, his raw talent shining through in front of an adoring home crowd.
The 24-year-old had the measure of the veteran early on then lost concentration and became agitated before refocusing to win 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 on his favored Melbourne Arena.
Halep blows away
British qualifier Dart
Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep powered into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, defeating British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-4 in only 77 minutes.
Windy conditions on Rod Laver Arena saw the pair trading breaks of serve at the start of the match before Halep steadied the ship, winning four games in a row before serving out the set.
The two-times Grand Slam champion wavered slightly as she failed to serve out the match while 5-2 up in the final set, but she completed the job at the second time of asking to set up a meeting with either 26th seed American Danielle Collins or Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
Despite the loss, Dart’s performance was a marked improvement on her appearance at last year’s Open, when she was beaten by Maria Sharapova in the opening round without winning a single game.
Second seed Karolina Pliskova breezed through to the third round, dispatching Germany’s Laura Siegemund 6-3, 6-3.
Siegemund, who had won their only previous meeting in 2017, at times challenged Pliskova with her variety and skills at the net but ultimately could not match the Czech’s power from the baseline.
Pliskova was down 1-3 in the first set but never looked in danger of losing, immediately breaking the 72nd-ranked Siegemund in the next game to get back on serve. The Czech clinched the victory in an hour and 26 minutes and will next face either Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or American Taylor Townsend.
Faultless Zverev strolls into next round
Alexander Zverev put his serving woes behind him as he cruised into the third round with a dominant 7-6(5), 6-4, 7-5 win over Belarusian battler Egor Gerasimov.
Seventh seed Zverev racked up an astonishing 31 double-faults in three defeats at the season-opening ATP Cup but committed none against Gerasimov while bashing nine aces and landing an encouraging 78 percent of his first serves at Rod Laver Arena.
Zverev wavered when serving for the match at 5-3, allowing world number 98 Gerasimov to break back and level to 5-5, but the combustible German talent wrapped up the contest soon after with a barrage of stunning forehand winners.
Zverev will play the winner of Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili and Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco for a place in the fourth round.
Medvedev masters Martinez, bleeding nose to advance
Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia dealt with spells of resistance from Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez and a bleeding nose on his way to a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 win to reach the next round.
Medvedev, a US Open finalist last year, arrived in Melbourne in red-hot form, winning all his singles matches at the inaugural ATP Cup before a three-set defeat to seven-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
The 168th-ranked Martinez, who had never won a tour-level match before his Australian Open debut this week, could only break his opponent’s serve once and created three more chances for a break in the sixth game of the third set but did not have enough to challenge the clinical Russian.
Medvedev’s nose started bleeding while he was up 5-0 in the second set and he was back on court firing on all cylinders after a medical timeout to set up a third-round clash against Spaniard Jaume Munar or local hope Alexei Popyrin.
Thiem rallies to unlock Bolt
Dominic Thiem was dragged into an engrossing five-set scrap by former ditch digger Alex Bolt but emerged a 6-2, 5-7, 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-2 winner to reach the third round.
The fifth-seeded Austrian was facing back-to-back exits at the hands of Australian wildcards in the second round of the year’s first Grand Slam when Bolt won the third-set tiebreak with a thumping ace to go 2-1 up.
Roared on by a partisan crowd, lefthander Bolt stalked the Melbourne Arena court hitting winners from everywhere, including one around the net post, and putting huge pressure on the twice Roland Garros finalist.
Thiem kept his composure as his 140th-ranked opponent tired, however, and showed his class in the final two sets to book a date with Kevin Anderson or Taylor Fritz in the third round.
Bencic marches into the third round
Swiss Belinda Bencic came through a tricky clash with former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko in the second round of the Australian Open. Bencic won seven out of eight break points to prevail 7-5, 7-5.
Earlier, 19th seed Donna Vekic powered past France’s Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-2 to move into the third round for the first time. Agencies