/ Tennis

Rafa Nadal. Andy Murray and Roger Federer all progess at the Australian Open

Updated: Saturday, 18 Jan 2014 12:12 | Comments

Rafa Nadal signalled his intent in seeing off Gael Monfils Andy Murray through to the last 16 as he bids to win a first Australian Open
Rafa Nadal signalled his intent in seeing off Gael Monfils Andy Murray through to the last 16 as he bids to win a first Australian Open

Rafael Nadal sent a message to his rivals with a clinical display to defeat dangerous Frenchman Gael Monfils in the third round of the Australian Open.

Monfils, with his flashy shots and crowd-pleasing style, has caused a degree of trouble for Nadal in the past but not this time.

The Frenchman managed just three games in the first two sets and, although he fared better in the third, it was Nadal who eased to a 6-1 6-2 6-3 victory.

Things may have been different had Monfils responded to a break of his serve in the first game by hitting straight back.

He had three chances but each time Nadal found the answer, and it was not until the fifth game that Monfils got on the board.

There were a smattering of stunning winners from the 27-year-old but far too many loose shots to put any pressure on his opponent.

The only concern for Nadal came in the fourth game of the second set when he slightly rolled his ankle, but he did not require any treatment and a run of four straight games followed.

Monfils began to serve better in the third set and for the first time managed sustained pressure on the Nadal delivery, but every break point was met with rock solid play by the world number one.

And it was no surprise when Monfils blazed a forehand metres over the baseline to hand Nadal the break and a chance to serve for the match.

He took it with the minimum of fuss and goes forward to a fourth-round meeting with Japan's Kei Nishikori.

Andy Murray maintained his perfect record against Feliciano Lopez to reach the second week without dropping a set - while Roger Federer also progressed in Melbourne

The fourth seed had beaten Lopez in all seven of their previous meetings but this was seen as the first real test of Murray's form following back surgery.

It was a test he passed with flying colours in Melbourne, playing a superb tie-break at the end of a tight first set and then pulling away to win 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 6-2.

And Murray will be a hot favourite to reach the quarter-finals given he plays 119th-ranked lucky loser Stephane Robert next, in round four.

The Scot said: "It's been a good start. It was very tricky conditions the first couple of matches with the heat but today was beautiful conditions to play in.

"We get to play in front of full crowd when it's like this so it was a great atmosphere. I don't know why but every time I've come here since I was 18 I've had great support."

Roger Federer continued his serene progress by thrashing Teymuraz Gabashvili on Rod Laver Arena.

The 17-time grand slam champion has yet to drop a set in his opening three matches in Melbourne and never looked likely to against his Russian opponent, who delighted the crowd on occasion with excellent winners but was far too inconsistent to trouble Federer.

The Swiss did not concede a break of serve and never looked back after winning five games on the bounce, which put him on the path to an emphatic 6-2 6-2 6-3 victory and a fourth-round clash with either Gilles Simon or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

It appeared Federer would be in for a tough assignment against the world number 79 when he had to save two break points to hold in the opening game.

But Federer gained the initiative in the sixth game when Gabashvili followed up two errors with a double fault to lose his serve.

The world number six capitalised by going on to break Gabashvili again and take the first set with minimal fuss in 33 minutes.
Gabashvili, who beat 31st seed Fernando Verdasco in the last round, won his first game in six by holding serve at the start of the second set.

The 28-year-old kept the crowd entertained, with several backhand winners drawing plenty of gasps, yet too often he let his opponent off the hook.

After Federer had comfortably won the second set in a similar manner to the first, Gabashvili earned two break points at the start of the third.

The four-time champion, who won 87 per cent of points on his first serve, held his nerve, however.

It proved to be the final opportunity for the underdog, who succumbed to defeat in one hour and 41 minutes.

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