MELBOURNE (Reuters) -
Rafael Nadal said his game is improving with every match since his return from a lengthy injury break after the Spaniard eased past Yannick Hanfmann 6-2 6-3 6-4 to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The only former champion left in the men’s draw at Melbourne Park, Nadal is tied on 20 majors with the injured Roger Federer and world number one Novak Djokovic, who was deported from Australia before the tournament began.
A second Australian Open title would not only break the three-way tie at the top of men’s tennis but also make Nadal just the second man after Djokovic to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice since the sport became professional in 1968.
Nadal has, however, repeatedly said that his only objective at this year’s opening major was to stay healthy, having returned to the Tour after recovering from a long-standing foot problem and contracting COVID-19 last month.
The 2009 champion’s only previous meeting with the 126th-ranked Hanfmann came on the Roland Garros clay in 2019 when Nadal lost just six games en route to a straight-sets victory.