Rafael Nadal Defeats Karen Khachanov to Advance to 2022 Australian Open 4th Round

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 21, 2022

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 21:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after winning a point in his third round singles match against Karen Khachanov of Russia during day five of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal reached the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open with a four-set win over No. 28 seed Karen Khachanov on Friday at Melbourne Park.

Nadal, the Grand Slam's sixth seed, cruised through the first two sets before dropping his first set of the tournament. He bounced back to win the fourth set in dominant fashion, 6-1, to advance. He's seeking his second Aussie Open title, with the first coming 2009.

A championship would also give the 35-year-old Spanish superstar 21 major singles titles, which would break a tie with longtime rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the top spot on the all-time men's list.

Nadal put together a strong all-around performance to further assert himself as one of the tournament favorites.

The fan favorite tallied 39 winners, won 88 percent of points when coming to net (23 of 26), 83 percent of points on his first serve (55 of 66) and 39 percent of points on the return (42 of 109). He also generated 15 break opportunities and coverted five of them.

His service games could still benefit from a little more efficiency, however, as he finished the third-round win with six double-faults against four aces.

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

"Lots of energy in my pocket to keep going, keep fighting." <a href="https://twitter.com/RafaelNadal?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RafaelNadal</a> is not done with yet 👊<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AusOpen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AusOpen</a> • <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AO2022?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AO2022</a> • <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AOinterview?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AOinterview</a> <a href="https://t.co/3joVZ1ziTi">pic.twitter.com/3joVZ1ziTi</a>

Nadal has now reached at least the fourth round in 14 of his last 16 appearances at the Australian Open. He's advanced to the quarterfinals or later in each of the past five years, including two trips to the final, but a second title at Melbourne Park has remained elusive.

He'll face Adrian Mannarino, who's coming off back-to-back upset wins over 10th-seeded Hubert Hurkacz and 18th-seeded Aslan Karatsev, in his next match.

Meanwhile, it's the fourth straight year Khachanov was knocked out in the Australian Open third round.

The 25-year-old has never advanced beyond the quarterfinal in a Grand Slam tournament, though he did reach the final of the men's tournament at last summer's Tokyo Olympics.

The Russian played well at times in Friday's match, racking up 36 winners and 14 aces, but he also tallied 42 unforced errors and struggled to make consistent inroads on Nadal's serve, winning just 19 percent of his return points (19 of 98) with a single break.

Khachanov's next chance to hit the Grand Slam stage will come in May at the French Open. He reached the quarterfinals of the clay-court major in 2019.