Nadal Remains Focused In Melbourne

Spanish superstar sets up Last 16 clash with Schwartzman

Rafael Nadal has been business-like thus far in his three matches at the Australian Open and on Friday moved to within one victory of maintaining his hold on No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

The Spanish superstar tore past No. 28 seed Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia & Herzegovina 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on Margaret Court Arena to reach the fourth round for the 11th time.

“I’m happy to be through to the fourth round,” said Nadal. “I needed hours on court, hours of playing sets with different players. That's what I did. I think I had a good preparation here. I felt myself playing well. Here I am in the fourth round - that's because I am doing the right things. Let's see how far I can go.”

The 2009 champion – and a three-time finalist – competed with real intent in the 550th hard-court match of his career (424-126), striking 28 winners and converting seven of his 16 break point opportunities.

The 31-year-old will next face Argentine No. 24 seed Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round. Nadal is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era (since 1968) and only the third in history – after Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver – to win each of the four Grand Slam championship trophies twice.

“Diego's a great player,” said Nadal. “He's a player that last year had an amazing year, and this year started again playing so well. So already won three matches here, playing again at a very high level. He's a very complete player. He's a player that if I don't play my best, I’m probably not going to win.”

Roger Federer would become No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for the first time since 4 November 2012 if he retains his title and Nadal doesn't reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.

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Nadal won the first five games of the match and came within one point of a 22-minute bagel opener, only for Dzumhur to save set point at 0-5, 30/40. Despite being broken early in the second set, Dzumhur worked his way back to 2-2. But from there Nadal won 10 of the next 12 games for victory in one hour and 50 minutes.

Dzumhur had been on a three-match winning streak against opponents in the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings, having beaten Nadal at the 2016 Miami Open presented by Itau (third-set retirement), then last year triumphing over No. 3-ranked Stan Wawrinka at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and No. 4-ranked Alexander Zverev at the Shenzhen Open.

Schwartzman avenged his straight-sets loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp two weeks ago to reach the Australian Open fourth round for the first time.

The diminutive Argentine regrouped from losing the first set to win 6-7(1), 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 38 minutes.

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