MELBOURNE, Australia, January 18 – Rafael Nadal cranked up his bid for a second Australian Open title with a solid workout against Tommy Haas as great rival Roger Federer had a walkover into the third round on Wednesday.
World number two Nadal overcame four-time grand slam semi-finalist Haas 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in 2hr 29min on Rod Laver Arena, while Federer put his feet up after his second-round opponent Andreas Beck pulled out injured.
Beck injured his lower back warming up in the morning and gave the 16-time grand slam champion a saloon passage into the last 32.
Nadal, a 10-time major winner, was given a good match by the German, who reached a career-high number two ranking in 2002 before a succession of shoulder operations derailed his career.
Haas, at 33 years and nine months the oldest player in the men’s singles draw, reached three Melbourne semi-finals in 1999, 2002 and 2007 and provided a reminder of his former glories with some cracking forehands and backhands.
Nadal, who will face either American Donald Young or Lukas Lacko of Slovakia next up, again played with his right knee heavily bandaged but reported no problems with it during Wednesday’s match.
“I really practised well. I’ve had very good preparation,” Nadal said. “I’ve already won two matches in straight sets with a positive feeling. I am well.”
Haas, on the comeback trail, had plenty to be pleased about after missing last year’s Australian Open.
“Overall I’m pretty happy with the way I played at times,” Haas said. “There is still a lot of room to improve and be more consistent.
“I still feel like I’m lacking the experience of matches because it hasn’t been really that many in the last almost two years now.”
While Nadal was hard at work getting past the stylish German, Federer was taking it easy after losing his opponent through injury.
“I would have loved to play. I feel sorry for the fans. I was ready to go,” the Swiss said.
“I was completely focusing on the match, thinking that I would probably have two, three hours to go. So from that standpoint, the energy is there.
“Now, I’ll just take it easy this afternoon and come out tomorrow and hit intensely tomorrow, and then I’ll be ready for the next match.”
Ironically, what would have been Federer’s first match on the secondary Hisense Arena never materialised after playing his last 52 matches at the Australian Open on the main Rod Laver Arena.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, American eighth seed Mardy Fish was knocked out of the tournament by Colombia’s Alejandro Falla, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (8/6).
“You’re down two sets. He’s a good player and he was up two sets to love against Roger (Federer) at Wimbledon. The guy can play,” Fish said.
“I wasn’t shocked that I was in that position. I certainly didn’t play as well in the first round as today.”
Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych had a straight sets-victory over Belgium’s Olivier Rochus, and former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro ousted Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
“I’m almost in my best form. I think I played much better than my first match, and Kavcic is a very dangerous and fast player,” del Potro said.
“I feel confidence with my forehand, so it’s important to play safely all the game and play with confidence every time.”