The back problems Rafa Nadal had been experiencing prior last week at the ATP Cup have not been clearly resolved despite completing his third match at the Australian Open in straight sets.
Of course it was a tough match. He came here after winning a couple of matches. Rafa Nadal
Cameron Norrie was his third victim and he proved to be a bigger hurdle than expected for the second seed to clear but overcoming problems is nothing new for the Spaniard.
For much of the match the British No.3 held his own but he lacked the firepower to really make an impression on the 20-time Grand Slam champion who regularly outhit the Brit to take him to a 7-5 6-2 7-5 victory.
Throughout the match there was a feeling that Nadal was not at his best and that he was lacking some of his usual mobility, but his usual concentration and determination were very evident.
As Nadal acknowledged following his win: “Of course it was a tough match. He came here after winning a couple of matches. I didn’t take the opportunities I had at the beginning of every set and the situation became a little bit more difficult.
“And then of course you are playing against the best players in the world, so it’s normal that you might suffer a bit. But happy now, good feelings. Of course I need to keep improving.”
Nadal signalled his intent by opening with a serve to love, but Norrie proved to be a resilient opponent, going blow-for-blow in a baseline battle and even breaking the second seed.
But Nadal quickly refocused to fight back and take the set 7-5 when Norrie sent a forehand long.
The Spaniard created plenty of break-point opportunities and finally converted an overhead to break for 4-2 in the second set.
Another break sealed the set as the Brit, who was aiming to reach a Grand Slam last 16 for the first time, wilted under Mallorcan’s relentless firepower.
Little separated them in the third until Nadal made his move in the 11th game, creating a match point with a screaming forehand and securing the win when Norrie committed a backhand error
Nadal will now face the 16th seeded Fabio Fognini in the fourth round after the fiery Italian beat Aussie No.1 Alex de Minaur 6-4 6-3 6-4.
With Novak Djokovic nursing an abdominal injury which might prevent him from meeting Milos Raonic in Sunday’s round of 16, Nadal looks to be on track to improve his record of Grand Slam wins which he currently shares with Roger Federer.
“I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that [injury]in less than two days,” Djokovic said Friday, while opting not to practice on Saturday.