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Rafael Nadal shows improvement after injury, advances to third round

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Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal Australian Open. Photo/Marca

Rafael Nadal is excited after advancing to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday after defeating Hanfmann.

Nadal beat Hanfmann in three straight sets – 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 – and booked a slot in the tournament’s third round.

The 20-time Grand Slam Champion said post-match that his game has improved after months of battling a foot injury.

Nadal maintains that his primary objective is staying in proper form this season after battling an injury for months last season.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion stated that he wanted to play with greater aggression on the court. However, he hasn’t had much opportunity to alter his style of play.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open. Photo/Eurosport

Going forward, Nadal only wants to play better this season.

“I said here before the tournament start, things are not going to be perfect, but every day that I’m going to spend on court, the chances to play better are higher,” Reuters quotes him.

“I think I am doing things well. I’m excited about the fact that I’m going to be playing in a third-round for one more time here after all the things I am going through. I don’t have big pressure on my shoulders, honestly. I don’t feel it.”

The Spaniard says that he has only played five matches since his recovery which is not enough to say tell if he should change anything in his game.

“If I’m able to play more matches in the next couple of months, I hope to be able to play better and better and to improve a couple of things.”

There is only one past champion left in the men’s draw at Melbourne Park, Rafael Nadal, who is tied with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on 20 Grand Slam titles.

If Nadal wins the Australian Open for the second time, he will join Novak Djokovic as the only men to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments twice since professional tennis began in 1968.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal has tested positive for COVID-19. Photo/Tennis World USA

This year’s first Grand Slam tournament will be Nadal’s first tournament since returning to the Tour following a long-standing foot ailment and acquiring COVID-19 last month.

Nadal tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Spain from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi. He wasn’t sure he would play in the Australian Open.

Hanfmann, seeded 126 and Nadal have only met once before, with Nadal winning in straight sets at Roland Garros in 2019.

On a windy day at the Rod Laver Arena, the 30-year-old German qualifier performed marginally better but not enough to challenge Nadal, who broke his opponent’s serve four times and saved both break points he faced.

In the beginning, Hanfmann made many forays towards the Nadal net and also used drop shots to force the Spaniard to come forward. However, Nadal grew stronger as the match went on.

When Hanfmann sent a forehand long with five match points on the clock, the sixth seed sealed his triumph. He will now play either Russian Karen Khachanov or Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi for a spot in the fourth round.

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