Rafael Nadal in action against Marcos Baghdatis  at the Australian Open
Rafael Nadal in action against Marcos Baghdatis at the Australian Open MARK R. CRISTINO

Nadal sets up clash with top teen

IT IS so far, so good for 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal, but a date with the world's best teenager awaits the 30-year-old today.

Nadal has taken care of ageing, albeit potentially dangerous, opposition in German Florian Mayer and Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the first two rounds at Melbourne Park this year.

His next opponent, Alexander Zverev, who is the 24th seed and considered a future world No.1, thrashed American qualifier Frances Tiafoe 6-2 6-3 6-4 to make it through to round three after a five-setter in against Dutchman Robin Haase to open his campaign.

Nadal won his only prior match-up with Zverev in three sets last year at Indian Wells.

"It is a high-quality match and (will) be a big challenge for me,” Nadal said.

"I know he's potential grand slam winner in the future. He's a big talented player; he's young and improving in every moment he's on the tour.

"He's a player (who) can be future world No.1, so (it is) going to be a big challenge for me in the next round and I need to play my best.”

The No.9 seed cleaned up Baghdatis 6-3 6-1 6-3 in an emphatic display.

Nadal struck 32 winners to Baghdatis's 20 and also had fewer unforced errors (33 to 42).

"I think (it) was a good match. I didn't play before during the night this year here, so the conditions change a lot,” Nadal said.

"The ball is much, much slower and was a bit tough to adjust at the beginning.

"But when the match was going, I was playing better and better. Marcos is a great player and especially on this court, he has a great feeling.

"It was a great victory for me and I wish him the best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal said his torrid recent injury run, including a left wrist issue, had not dampened his spirits, given his magnificent success of winning 14 grand slam titles.

"I am here and very happy to be here and feel my body with no injuries now and (that is) all I can ask for,” he said.

"I had a lot of success and amazing memories from all places I play at, so I can't complain. I am happy with everything that happen to me - I feel a lucky person.”

Nadal may also need to beat Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic, Dominic Thiem and Andy Murray after that to win a second Australian title, a tough stretch even with Novak Djokovic out of the picture.

HERALD SUN



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