Rafael Nadal and Alex De Minaur won second-round matches at the Australian Open on Wednesday night to set up an intriguing third-round clash at the first Grand Slam of the year.
Nadal had the quicker day at the office, hitting 33 winners to just 15 unforced errors, and fighting off all four break points he faced, to beat Matthew Ebden in an hour and 56 minutes, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
“I think I played a solid match,” the No. 2 seed said in his on-court interview with John McEnroe. “My serve worked well tonight. I think I did well on my serve and on my first shot. It was very, very positive. I hit a lot of winners with my forehand, and my return was improving throughout the match too.
“Every day is a test, especially when you’re coming back from injuries, but I’m very happy to be back in Rod Laver Arena during the night session. It’s a great atmosphere. I always like playing here.”
Just a few minutes later, No. 27 seed De Minaur wrapped up a marathon win over Henri Laaksonen, edging the Swiss qualifier after three hours and 52 minutes on Margaret Court Arena, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3.
De Minaur had to regroup after missing a match point at 7-6 in the third set tie-break.
“I didn’t want to lose,” he said. “I had to make sure I composed myself mentally and reset for the last set. I had to try not to get down on myself, and be positive, and just keep fighting for every ball.”
The Australian rising star thanked his home fans, too.
“I’d like to thank everybody who stayed out here,” he added. “You guys helped me get through that, and I can’t thank you guys enough. There’s nothing better than playing at home—I could do this every single day of the year. There’s nothing better than playing in front of you guys, whether it’s one hour, two hours, five or ten hours.”
Nadal and De Minaur will square off in Melbourne on Friday in what will be their second head-to-head meeting—the Spaniard beat the Australian in the third round of Wimbledon last year, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“He’s playing great, and he’s made a great improvement during the last couple of years,” Nadal said. “I feel happy the new generation is coming. It’s important for tennis. And it will be an interesting battle—he’s an amazing talent, and I really believe he has a chance of having an amazing career.”
“It’s going to be incredible,” De Minaur said. “Just to step out there on court with him and have fun, it’ll be an incredible experience for me.
"I can’t wait to get out there and compete, and give 150 percent.”
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