MELBOURNE, Australia – Rafael Nadal extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 23 matches with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win over American qualifier Ryan Sweeting today to reach the third round of the Australian Open.
The top-ranked Nadal is aiming to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.
He’s conceded only four games en route to the third round, sealing his win over Sweeting on Thursday with another of his rifling forehands.
After retiring with an injury in the quarterfinals at the last Australian Open, Nadal rebounded to win the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.
“I feel good. Today the serve started to work much better,” Nadal said. “Only one (bad) moment, when the sun came in my eyes,” Nadal said. “It was a positive victory for me, an important victory.”
All the coverage of his “Rafa Slam” had no influence on Nadal’s mindset.
“No, for sure, it’s not a distraction,” he said. “It’s the last thing I’m thinking about right now. I’m trying to find my best level.”
Kim Clijsters showed why she’s fast becoming a hot favorite for the women’s title by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.
With defending champion Serena Williams not playing in Australia due to a prolonged foot problem, third-seeded Clijsters is hopeful of going one better than her previous best performance at Melbourne Park – she lost the 2004 final.
Joining her in the third round from the bottom half of the draw were No. 10 Shahar Peer, who beat Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-2 and No. 22 Flavia Pennetta, who beat Lourdes Dominguez 6-2, 6-2.
Seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic lost 7-6 (3), 6-3 to China’s Peng Shuai, continuing an unimpressive streak of seven losses in eight matches. It was former world No. 1 Jankovic’s worst result at a major since the 2009 U.S. Open.
While Clijsters has advanced with ease, Venus Williams has had a challenging time.
Williams injured a muscle between her stomach and groin Wednesday as she twisted for a volley. She needed a medical timeout after losing the first set.
She rallied to take the next two sets and defeat Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4.
Roger Federer faced a more familiar problem – Gilles Simon. He’s one of only three men on tour with a winning record against the Swiss great. Federer raced to a two-set lead in a second-round night match, and seemed in the clear. He had never lost after being so far ahead in a Grand Slam tournament.
Then Simon, who beat Federer twice in 2008 on hard courts in their only two previous encounters, started to take more risks, moving the 16-time Grand Slam champion out of his comfort zone. But Federer persevered, finishing off a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory on his fifth match point.