March 7, 2014
Dominant Nadal leads race into second week in Melbourne
Rafa Nadal beamed with delight after laying down an emphatic marker with a brilliant display of all-court tennis to charge into the last 16 of the Australian Open.
The Melbourne heatwave may have broken but arch-competitor Nadal was still bathed in sweat after his two-hour 6-1 6-2 6-3 demolition of the talented but error-prone Gael Monfils.
Roger Federer earlier boasted of his fitness, Maria Sharapova felt a bit rusty and Andy Murray berated himself but all three eased into the second week.
Victoria Azarenka remained on course for her third straight title but may find the next hurdle trickier after setting up a fourth round tie against Sloane Stephens, who she beat amid controversy in last year's semi-finals.
While there was relief all round at the cooler temperatures after four days of stifling heat, Milos Raonic and Caroline Wozniacki both felt the stinging burn of an upset.
Nadal never looked in any danger of an early departure, barring a brief injury scare when he jarred his foot early in the second set.
Such was his dominance after he suppressed the Frenchman's early charge, the Spaniard was at a loss to pick out an element of his game that pleased him most.
"I think I have to say that I played well from everywhere, no?," he said.
"Tonight I think I played a great match ... (but) just one very good day. That makes me feel confident, but I am in the fourth round. That's all."
The top seed will play Kei Nishikori for a place in the quarter-finals after the Japanese ended American interest in the men's draw with a 7-5 6-1 6-0 win over Donald Young.