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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal delivered a commanding conquest of compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 charging into the AO fourth round for the 13th time.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

An old tennis adage advises what you don’t know can hurt you.

When it comes to facing Rafael Nadal, friendly fire can be even more damaging.

More: Federer Fights Through AO Epic

The world No. 1 administered a bruising beat-down to buddy Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, barreling into the Australian Open fourth round for the 13th time. 

Tennis Express

"It was my best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt," the satisfied Spaniard told reporters. "Big difference between today and the previous days. I have been serving well, starting to create damage with the forehand."

Commanding the center of the court, Nadal crunched crosscourt combinations playing his most complete match of the season. Stinging his serve with ambition, Nadal served 63 percent, pumped nine aces, permitted just five points on first serve and did not face a break point in a dynamic performance as he continues his quest to try to win his 20th Grand Slam title to match rival Roger Federer's record.. 

This was artful annihilation.

Nadal doubled Carreno Busta's winners—42 to 21— and committed only seven errors in a 99-minute victory.

"Every day is a different story," the World No.1 said. "But, of course, is important to make steps forward. It's clear that today I make an important one."

More importantly, he elevated his play on break-point conversions. Nadal converted just three of 20 break points in his three-set win over Federico Delbonis in round today. Today, Nadal cashed in on five of 10 break-point chances, including breaking in Carreno Busta's opening service games of the first and second sets.

The 2009 champion awaits either nemesis Nick Kyrgios or 16th-seeded Karen Khachanov in the fourth round.

If Kyrgios knocks off Khachanov tonight, it would create a blockbuster rematch of their Wimbledon clash last summer when the temperamental Aussie admitted trying to tag Nadal in the chest with a drive only to see the Spaniard deflect the ball and ultimately prevail 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3).

Overall, Nadal has won four of seven meetings vs. Kyrgios and owns an imposing 7-0 edge over Khachanov.

Nadal took the court carrying an imposing 22-3 record against compatriots in Grand Slam play and took all of about 10 minutes to remind his ATP Cup teammate who’s boss.

The forehand down the line is often a barometer of Nadal’s confidence level. The US Open champion roped a pair of forehand drives down the line then tomahawked his two-handed backhand breaking Carreno Busta in his opening service game.

Banging away at his teammate’s backhand wing, Nadal stamped a love hold for a 3-0 lead after 11 minutes.

Frozen by some of Nadal’s down-the-line drives, Carreno Busta needed to change the shape of his shots and try to displace the US Open champion from the center of the court. The problem for Carreno Busta was Nadal was locked in on serve and whipping baseline drives with menacing intentions.

The top seed tore through eight straight points seizing a 2-0 lead to start the second set.

A stinging serve and aggressive mind-set empowered Nadal to stretch the lead.

Tennis Express

The 2009 champion earned his fourth break for 5-2. Soaring for a Sampras-style smash, Nadal slammed shut the set soaring to a two-set lead after just 56 minutes.

Unable to gain much traction in extended rallies, Carreno Busta stayed in step through four games. Nadal broke for a 3-2 third-set lead and never looked back cruising into the round of 16 with an energized and efficient performance.


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