MELBOURNE, January 18: Rafael Nadal hailed Alex de Minaur as “one of the best in the world” but still showed the teenager the Australian Open door 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the third round on Friday.
The relentless Spanish 17-time Grand Slam champion dragged the 19-year-old Australian 27th seed over every inch of Rod Laver Arena as he romped to victory in 2hr 22min.
The Spaniard limped out of last year’s Australian Open at the quarter-final stage, cut short his 2018 season to have surgery on a foot injury and pulled out of his Brisbane warm-up with a thigh niggle.
But in the third competitive match of his comeback he was back to his barnstorming best with his all-action game hardly allowing his young rival a sniff.
De Minaur, to his eternal credit, did little wrong and never gave up the fight.
Maria Sharapova scorched the Rod Laver Arena with her aggressive tennis to eliminate defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 4-6 6-3 in the third round on Friday.
Five-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who won her last major at the 2014 French Open, hit 37 winners against 10 from her opponent and converted her second matchpoint to set up a fourth round clash against Australia number one Ashleigh Barty.
Sharapova, who won the Australian Open in 2008, headed into the match with a 6-4 lead in their previous meetings and went for her shots from the first point making it difficult for the third-ranked Dane with a game built on defence.
“I thought the level was quite high. She is the defending champion of this event and it’s no secret she loves this arena,” Sharapova said in a courtside interview. (AFP)