MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal delivered his best performance of the week as the Spaniard dismantled compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1 6-2 6-4 to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The top seed was in ominous form on Rod Laver Arena, facing no break points and striking 42 winners to just seven unforced errors in his fifth straight win over 30th-ranked Carreno Busta.
The victory also extended Nadal’s 17-match winning streak over Spanish players, having not been beaten by a fellow countryman since losing to Fernando Verdasco at Melbourne Park in 2016.
“It was my best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt,” Nadal told reporters.
“I have been serving well, starting to create damage with the forehand. Hitting serve on one shot, I think.”
Carreno Busta never looked like threatening the Nadal serve, winning just 10 points on his returns in the 98-minute encounter.
Nadal, bidding for a record-equaling 20th Grand Slam trophy, claimed victory when Carreno Busta sent a backhand into the net, setting up a meeting with either Australian Nick Kyrgios or Russian 16th seed Karen Khachanov for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Kyrgios, no stranger to controversy, sparked headlines when he mocked Nadal by imitating the Spaniard’s pre-service routine after being hit with a time violation during his second round match on Thursday.
Nadal, who had earlier brushed aside the incident, said he preferred Kyrgios more when he was playing his fiery brand of tennis instead of drawing attention for his on-court antics.
“When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour and I want my tour bigger, not smaller,” he said.
“When he’s ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, (he) is one of these guys. When he’s doing the other stuff, of course I don’t like.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford