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Friday 17 November 2017

Nadal pleased with progress

TENNIS: Rafael Nadal was happy to reflect on a "complete match" after beating Lukas Lacko at the Australian Open today.

World number two Nadal was pushed early on by the Slovakian qualifier, but once he upped his level, Lacko was powerless to stave off a 6-2 6-4 6-2 defeat in just under two hours.

"It was a really complete match, a really solid one. I'm very happy about my game," said Nadal, who has made untroubled progress into the last 16.

"Being in the fourth round without losing a set, it's fantastic news."

Lacko looked Nadal's equal in the opening exchanges, but he could not maintain it and Nadal took full advantage to cruise through.

"I am playing well and if you are playing well, things can be a little bit less difficult," Nadal said.

"I have done well, played all three matches at a very good level. Today was one of the best, solid, without mistakes, comfortable with the serve, having good returns.

"I played solid all match."



Giant

Roger Federer followed Nadal onto Rod Laver Arena and promptly followed him into round four, although he too was made to work hard by giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic before sealing a 7-6 (8/6) 7-5 6-3 success.

Karlovic, at 6ft 10in, posed the Swiss the usual conundrum of how to break his formidable serve.

And for almost two sets, Federer failed to find the answer.

Indeed, having taken the first set to a tie-break, Karlovic set up a set point at 6-5 only for the world number three to produce a bit of magic to reach a mis-hit volley, which just dropped over the net, and clip a clever lob over his towering opponent. A wonderful backhand return then handed Federer a set point of his own and he made no mistake with it.

Karlovic threatened again at 1-1 in the second on break point but Federer served his way out of danger.

It took Federer, the winner of a record 16 grand slam titles, until the 25th game of the match to create a break point of his own, and when he did it was a set point. Karlovic saved the first but there was no denying Federer second time around.

It looked a long road back for the Croatian and although he saved three break points at 0-1 in the third, he could not repeat the feat when Federer threatened again at 1-2.

He duly served it out to move through to face the winner of the clash between Bernard Tomic and Alexandr Dolgopolov.

"He is so tall and makes it unusual," Federer said of Karlovic. "It was always going to be tough and you need a bit of luck. I got fortunate and started to play better as the match went on."

Meanwhile, top seed Caroline Wozniacki said she felt fully in control as her quest for a maiden grand slam title continued with a 6-2 6-2 third round victory over Monica Niculescu.

The world number one had some trouble killing off the Romanian 31st seed and was broken when she was serving for the match, but the hard work had already been done.



Rasping

The 21-year-old wasted no time in breaking back immediately to clinch the victory with a rasping backhand winner after 76 minutes and reach the fourth round without dropping a set.

"I felt pretty good," Wozniacki said.

"We had a lot of long rallies because she got a lot of balls back. With her slice forehand as well it was tough to finish out the point sometimes. But I don't know. I felt like I was in control."

Wozniacki needs at least one more win in Melbourne to have a chance of emerging from the year's first grand slam at the top of the rankings, a position she has held for 67 of the last 68 weeks to constant sniping about her lack of a grand slam title.

Asked about the number one ranking, Wozniacki spoke with the fluency of someone who has had plenty of practice defending her position.

"I just play. I want to try to do my best here. Whatever happens, happens," she said. "To be honest, I've proven myself for the last two years. I've finished number one twice in a row.

"For me, the most important thing is to keep improving. If I do that, I know I can play on a very high level."

The Dane will next play American Christina McHale or 13th seed and former world number one Jelena Jankovic.

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