Nadal pulls off a great escape

Tennis Australian Open: Ailing Spaniard staves off Smyczek; Federer, Sharapova, Murray in third round
Last Updated 21 January 2015, 19:50 IST

 An ailing Rafael Nadal dug deep into his vast reservoir of grit to stave off American qualifier Tim Smyczek and stagger into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday on a day of great escapes.

Gushing sweat and stooping woozily between points, the sickly Spaniard dragged his cramping body into a fifth set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, breaking the 112th-ranked American in the 11th game before closing out a 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5 win in four gruelling hours and 12 minutes.

Nadal slumped to his knees on the blue hard court having narrowly averted a repeat of his Melbourne Park jinx.

"It was a very tough night for me (and) ... a tough period of seven months without competition," Nadal, who was out of action for several months during the latter half of the 2014 season through injury and illness, said in a courtside interview.

"Today was a little bit humid conditions and I felt very tired after the first set, through the whole match. The fantastic crowd helped a lot so many thanks for that."

Centre court was the backdrop for nerve-shredding tests for some of the coolest heads in the business and with the temperature rising above 32 degrees Celsius, Maria Sharapova showed ice in her veins.

She mounted a brilliant counter-attack to fend off fellow Russian Alexandra Panova, a 150th-ranked qualifier playing the match of her life.

Down two breaks of serves at 4-1 in the deciding set, Sharapova clawed back to 5-4 and clobbered a string of forehand winners to save two match-points before marching on to a defiant 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

Men's second seed Roger Federer was also forced to scrap in the following match on centre court, after being thrown by a phantom pain on the little finger of his racquet hand during his 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over 48th-ranked Italian Simone Bolelli.

Andy Murray's second outing on the Margaret Court Arena was far more serene as the sixth seed trounced Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to retreat to the cool of the shade after 102 impressive minutes.

Canadian sensation Eugenie Bouchard, a semi-finalist on her Melbourne Park debut last year, continued her love affair with the blue hard courts, despatching Kiki Bertens 6-0, 6-3 in 54 minutes.

Meanwhile, Romanian sensation Simona Halep and the third seed in the womens’draw enjoyed a comforatable 6-2, 6-2 win over Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova in what was the last tie of the day.

Indians up and running

India enjoyed an all-win day after Leander Paes and Sania Mirza sailed into the second round of their respective men’s and women’s doubles.

Sania and her Chinese Taipei partner Su-Wei Hsieh, who are seeded second, defeated the Argentine-Swiss combine of Maria Irigoyen and Romina Oprandi 6-2, 6-0 in just 48 minutes to advance.

In the men’s doubles event, 10th seeded Paes and his South African partner Raven Klaasen edged past the American duo of Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram 6-4, 7-6 (6) to enter the second round.

(Published 21 January 2015, 19:50 IST)

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