Rafael Nadal continued his smooth progress at the Australian Open today to set up a third-round meeting with home favourite Bernard Tomic.
Nadal, who was leading Marcos Daniel 6-0 5-0 in round one before the Brazilian retired, was pushed slightly harder by American Ryan Sweeting but the outcome was still a formality as Nadal cruised home 6-2 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 42 minutes.
He will now play Tomic, who stunned 31st seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 on Hisense Arena. It is the match-up Australia was hoping for and is guaranteed prime-time billing on Saturday night.
Nadal said of the 18-year-old: “He’s very young but he has the potential to be in the top positions in the future.
“I will have to play well if I want to win.”
Nadal, who claimed he will warm up for the Tomic match with a trip to the local aquarium, felt there were a couple of minor things to work on from his victory against Sweeting.
“I think I played a solid match. A few mistakes with the backhand, that’s all,” he said.
“My serve improved a lot compared to the first match. I think I served very well today.
“Maybe I have to play a little bit more aggressively, more inside the court but in general I am happy.”
World number one Nadal won the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year, and arrived in Melbourne hoping to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles simultaneously.
His opening two matches suggest he remains the man to beat, especially as chief rival Roger Federer showed some unexpected vulnerability in last night’s five-set defeat of Gilles Simon.
If the pressure is on Nadal, it is not showing. He insists last year’s successes mean he can relax and simply focus on accumulating more silverware.
“I am very happy with what I did last year,” he said.
“It has made me very calm. I have probably less pressure on me now because of last season when I won a lot.
“But I still have to work hard every day. That’s what I do – keep practising with humility and motivation.”
Tomic, who has had his brushes with authority in the shape of Tennis Australia and the Australian Open organisers, appears to be maturing and he is confident he can cause a huge upset against Nadal.
“I can’t believe that I’m playing him. What an opportunity it is to play him, in a third round as well. It’s a dream come true. I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said.
“I’m hitting the ball great. My confidence is up there, especially after two matches.
“I’m not going to go and win this match if I go out there and play not to lose. I’ve got to play to win and I believe I can.
“I’ll just have a go. I don’t think he’ll like my game. I think the way I mix it up, he’s not going to like. But who knows?”
Frenchman Michael Llodra was another seed to fall early on day four, the Frenchman losing 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 7-6 (7/4) to Milos Raonic of Canada but Mikhail Youzhny, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic all progressed.
Tenth-seed Youzhny beat Blaz Kavcic 6-3 6-1 5-7 4-6 6-1 while Tsonga (13) and Cilic (15) did not lose a set against Andreas Seppi and Santiago Giraldo respectively.
Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Benjamin Becker while 32nd seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez overcame Eduardo Schwank to set up a possible third-round encounter with Andy Murray, who meets Illya Marchenko later today.