Australian Open 2017: Nadal looks back to his best as Djokovic crashes out

Australian Open 2017: Nadal looks back to his best as Djokovic crashes out

The Spaniard defeated Marcos Baghdatis is straight sets on the Rod Laver Arena.

Joe Nicholson

As one former champion crashed out of this year’s Australian Open another of tennis’ all-time greats came roaring back to the fore.

Novak Djokovic may have suffered an unthinkable defeat to the wildcard Denis Istomin on the Rod Laver Arena, which has blown the bottom half of the men’s draw wide open.

Yet the resurgence of Rafael Nadal is quickly picking up pace, and the Spaniard is safely through to the third round after a comprehensive 6-3 6-1 6-3 victory over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.

Nadal, seeded ninth at these Championships, could benefit from Djokovic’s departure but only if he reaches the semi-finals next week.

The Spaniard has will next meet the talented young German Alexander Zverev in a mouth-watering third round encounter on Friday.

Looking further ahead, Nadal could then face third seed Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals but if this performance is anything to go by then the Spaniard is serious contender for the title once again.

His trademark, lasso forehand appeared to be firing on all cylinders, just like when he won the title back in 2009, as he powered past Baghdatis in 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Even Nadal’s serve appeared to be yielding more free points, a promising sign if he plans to stay at the top of the game for the next few years.

Nadal looking to put 2016 behind him

The Nadal of 2016 was a shadow of the man who won 14 Grand Slam titles earlier in his career.

The hunger and desire was still there but his physical and explosive game appeared to be taking its toll on his strapping body, as his year became blighted by injury.

For the first time since 2004 Nadal failed to reach the quarter-final of a major, as the Spaniard’s future was cast into doubt.

Here in Melbourne, he claims - for the first time in a while - that he is “injury free” and that can only be a good thing for the sport.

Baghdatis applies some early pressure

Baghdatis, a player with bags of experience who has been ranked as high as eight in the world, made a promising start here, manufacturing the first break point in the third game.

However, after some extended and entertaining rallies, Nadal claimed the first mini-battle and before long he had raced into a 5-1 lead.

The Cypriot did manage to win one of the breaks back but Nadal didn’t hesitate when serving for the set a second time.

Rafa looking back to his best

Nadal then flicked through the gears in a ruthless fashion, as he stormed through the second set in little over half an hour.

After giving his all at start of the first set, Baghdatis alarmingly ran out of ideas in the second as he began to make basic errors when aiming for the lines.

That was partly down to Nadal’s impeccable movement, and the Spaniard looked as sharp as ever under the light on the Rod Laver Area.

An early break at the start of the fourth simplified things for Nadal and he had no problem serving the match out - booking his place in the last 32.

Istomin stuns Djokovic












Elsewhere, the main talking point on the fourth day of the tournament was Djokovic’s staggering defeat to world number 117 Denis Istomin.

After dropping the first set on a tie break, Djokovic appeared wrestle back control of the match by taking sets two and three.

However, the brilliant Istomin wasn’t ready to surrender as he fought back to record famous 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 in four hours and 48 minutes.

It is the first time that Djokovic has crashed out of a major since Wimbledon in 2008.