Australian Open 2021: Rafael Nadal Wins, Sofia Kenin Upset in Thursday's Play

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2021

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating United States' Michael Mmoh during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Rafael Nadal continued his strong start to the 2021 Australian Open with a straight-sets victory over American qualifier Michael Mmoh during Thursday's second-round play at Melbourne Park.

Fellow top-10 seeds Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini also advanced in a mostly straightforward day in the bottom half of the men's draw.

The same can't be said in the women's draw, where No. 4 seed and defending champion Sofia Kenin was eliminated by Kaia Kanepi. The second-round exit marked Kenin's earliest at a major since the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.

Women's top seed Ashleigh Barty moved on to the third round with a win over Daria Gavrilova.


Notable Results

Men's Bracket

(2) Rafael Nadal d. Michael Mmoh; 6-1, 6-4, 6-2

(4) Daniil Medvedev d. Roberto Carballes Baena; 6-2, 7-5, 6-1

(5) Stefanos Tsitsipas d. Thanasi Kokkinakis; 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-4

(7) Andrey Rublev d. Thiago Monteiro; 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (8)

(9) Matteo Berrettini d. Tomas Machac; 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3

(16) Fabio Fognini d. Salvatore Caruso; 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (12)

(19) Karen Khachanov d. Ricardas Berankis; 6-2, 6-4, 6-4

(21) Alex de Minaur d. Pablo Cuevas; 6-3, 6-3, 7-5

Mackenzie McDonald d. (22) Borna Coric; 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4

(24) Casper Ruud d. Tommy Paul; 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5

(28) Filip Krajinovic d. Pablo Andujar; 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4

Feliciano Lopez d. (31) Lorenzo Sonego; 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4


Women's Bracket

(1) Ashleigh Barty d. Daria Gavrilova; 6-1, 7-6 (7)

Kaia Kanepi d. (4) Sofia Kenin; 6-3, 6-2

(5) Elina Svitolina d. Coco Gauff; 6-4, 6-3

(6) Karolina Pliskova d. Danielle Collins; 7-5, 6-2

(11) Belinda Bencic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova; 7-5, 2-6, 6-4

(18) Elise Mertens d. Lin Zhu; 7-6 (8), 6-1

(21) Anett Kontaveit d. Heather Watson; 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2

(22) Jennifer Brady d. Madison Brengle; 6-1, 6-2

(25) Karolína Muchova d. Mona Barthel; 6-4, 6-1

(26) Yulia Putintseva d. Alison Van Uytvanck; 6-4, 1-6, 6-2

(28) Donna Vekic d. Nadia Podoroska; 6-2, 6-2

(29) Ekaterina Alexandrova d. Barbora Krejcikova; 6-3, 7-6 (4)


Nadal put together a highly efficient performance against Mmoh that bolstered his outlook as he seeks his second Australian Open title.

The tournament's 2009 champion recorded seven aces, won 84 percent of the points on his first serve, converted five break-point opportunities and was nearly perfect at the net (15 of 16). He finished with 40 winners, 24 more than his outmatched American counterpart.

Although he coasted to victory Thursday, the 34-year-old Spanish superstar said his back remains a concern as he moves forward in the season's first major.

"No, not under control, honestly. No, I am keep doing the things that I can. If you see my motion on the serve is different than what I would like," Nadal told reporters. "But I am trying to find solutions every day. I just keep fighting to find a solution."

Meanwhile, Kenin said she struggled with the pressure of trying to defend her first Grand Slam title in her loss to Kanepi.

"I was obviously way too nervous," Kenin said. "I felt like I obviously wasn't there. My head wasn't there. I'm not going to take any credit away from her. She played really well. She came up with some good shots. She obviously had a good plan against me. I had chances. I just couldn't take it. I obviously know why because, like, the nerves big-time got to me."

Break points were the difference in the match, as is often the case. Both players generated seven, but Kanepi converted three and Kenin couldn't capitalize on any of hers.

It was part of a lackluster overall outing from the No. 4 seed, who tallied 22 unforced errors compared to just 10 winners.

Barty almost found herself on upset alert as well before escaping with a win in her second-set tiebreaker.

The top seed compiled more errors (34) than winners (20) and allowed Gavrilova to secure four breaks of service. Luckily for the homestanding Aussie, she converted all six of her break chances to help her advance.

Being challenged a little bit in the second round should help her in the tournament goes on after she rolled past Danka Kovinic without dropping a single game in the opening round.

The 2021 Australian Open continues Friday with Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Simona Halep, Dominic Thiem and Naomi Osaka among the high-profile players in action.