Nadal fends off Hanfmann to enter Aus Open's third round

Source: AAP

Rafael Nadal has ground his way into the Australian Open third round, seeing off qualifier Yannick Hanfmann to continue his unbeaten start to the summer.

Nadal was scratchy at times, converting just four of 16 break points, and took more than two and a half hours to defeat the gritty German 6-2 6-3 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena.

The world No.6 credited Hanfmann, his 2019 French Open first-round opponent, with making his life difficult off the back of an impressive win over Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis.

"The result against Thanasi in the first round here says that he was playing great and coming from the quallies, he was used to the court," Nadal said.

"He's a player with big shots, good serve and with very high potential. Today his level of tennis was much higher than what his ranking says, without a doubt."

Pleasingly for Nadal, in his strong start to the Open, after claiming the Melbourne Summer Set, he has shown no signs of lingering fitness issues from last month's bout of Covid-19, or his 2021 injuries.

The 35-year-old is the only player who can claim a record 21st men's grand slam singles crown this month, amid Roger Federer's injury-enforced absence and Novak Djokovic's dramatic deportation.

Nadal reeled off four consecutive games to seal the first set, then had to find another gear to claim the second after some early troubles with Hanfmann's strong baseline game.

The world No.6 broke Hanfmann early in the third set, converting his third break point after a 22-shot rally.

Hanfmann saved two match points on serve when trailing 5-3, then another two on Nadal's subsequent service game, before the Spaniard sealed victory on his fifth attempt.

Nadal will next play either 28th seed Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi.

His Spanish compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, the youngest player in the draw and often likened to a youthful Nadal, blitzed his way through to the third round for the first time.

The 18-year-old thrashed Serbia's Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-1 7-5 to book a clash with either world No.7 Matteo Berrettini or US wildcard Stefan Kozlov.

The 2021 US Open quarter-finalist is seeded at a slam for the first time.

A third Spaniard, 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, prevailed in a five-set thriller to reach the third round.

Carreno Busta fought past Tallon Griekspoor 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-4 to earn a match-up with either Sebastian Korda or Corentin Moutet.

Unheralded Serb Miomir Kecmanovic continued to cash in on Djokovic's departure, beating American Tommy Paul 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 7-6 (10-8) to reach the third round.

Kecmanovic was originally due to play Djokovic first-up but his countryman's late deportation meant the 22-year-old instead beat lucky loser Salvatore Caruso, before backing up against Paul.

He will next play Italian 25th seed Lorenzo Sonego.