MELBOURNE, Australia – Rafael Nadal moved into the fourth round of the Australian Open without dropping a set or showing any signs that a freak knee injury is bothering him.
Second-ranked Nadal had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win today over Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko, the last qualifier in the draw, and will next play either John Isner or Feliciano Lopez.
Nadal, who won the 2009 Australian title but has gone out in the quarterfinals due to injuries in the last two years, felt a crack and then sharp pain in his right knee while sitting in a chair at his hotel over the weekend and was concerned that he might not be able to play in his opening match. Medical tests didn’t show any serious damage, and he has had the knee heavily taped in his three matches since.
“The knee is fine. That’s important thing,” the 10-time major winner said. “The match was a really complete match, a really solid one.
“Very happy about my game. Being in fourth round without losing a set, it’s fantastic news.”
Nadal is on the same half of the draw as Roger Federer at a major for the first time since 2005. Federer, who has won four of his 16 Grand Slam titles in Australia, advanced to the fourth round with a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-3 over hard-serving Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.
On the women’s side, top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki continued her quest for a first major title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Monica Niculescu of Romania and third-seeded Victoria Azarenka beat beat Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-4 in a match between champions of two warmup tournaments.
No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska beat Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva 6-2, 6-2 and will next meet No. 22 Julia Gorges, who beat Italian Romina Oprandi 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Wozniacki, who needs to reach the quarterfinals to have any chance of retaining the No. 1 ranking, wasted one match point and was broken when she was serving for the match, but broke back immediately to ensure she moved into the Round of 16.
Azarenka, who beat French Open champion Li Na to win the Sydney International last week, has only lost eight games at Melbourne Park and remains one of three women who can overhaul Wozniacki for the top ranking at the Australian Open.
The 22-year-old from Belarus will next meet Czech player Iveta Benesova, who beat Russian qualifier Nina Bratchikova 6-1, 6-3.
Barthel was on a 10-match winning run in Australia after capturing her first title at the Hobart International last week as a qualifier.
Barthel hit 20 winners – one more than Azarenka – but she was broken three times and failed to convert three break opportunities.
Andy Roddick is already out of the tournament, retiring during his second-round match against Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt late Thursday.
He needed a medical timeout after injuring his right hamstring in the second set and played 16 more games before finally retiring when Hewitt gained a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 lead.
“It’s a miserable, terrible thing being out there compromised like that,” Roddick said.
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