Australian Open: Nadal defies Mmoh and a heckler to advance

Spaniard will now face Britain’s Cameron Norrie in round three at Melbourne Park

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Michael Mmoh during their second round match at the Australian Open. Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP Photo

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Michael Mmoh during their second round match at the Australian Open. Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP Photo

 

Rafael Nadal seemed to be in full working order as he brushed aside Michael Mmoh to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

The second seed was not troubled by the back problem which hindered his build-up in a 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory in an hour and 47 minutes against the American qualifier.

In fact his biggest inconvenience was a raucous spectator — who may have enjoyed a little too much of the Melbourne hospitality — delaying proceedings until she was escorted out by security.

Asked if he knew the woman, Nadal said on court: “No, and honestly I don’t want to know!”

He later expanded on the incident, smiling: “Maybe she took too much gin or tequila. I don’t know. But honestly it was strange situation, but, yeah, funny at the same time.

“Somebody doing the finger to me — I don’t know the reason. I was surprised, yes, but at the same time was thinking, ‘poor girl’. Because probably she was drunk or something like this. I don’t know.”

On his back trouble, Nadal, who faces Britain’s Cameron Norrie in round three, added: “No, it’s not under control. I just keep fighting to find a solution.”

Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev celebrated his 25th birthday by overcoming Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2 7-5 6-1.

Thanasi Kokkinakis came up just short of another memorable victory after his comeback was ended in five sets by Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Kokkinakis’ emotional opening-round win over South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo on Tuesday night was his first victory in Melbourne since 2015, following a series of injuries and illnesses that threatened to destroy his career.

The Australians have been providing the high drama at their home grand slam, an event otherwise relatively low on thrills, low on crowds, and with players low on fitness following quarantine.

Nick Kyrgios got the party started on Wednesday night with his rollercoaster five-set win over Ugo Humbert and he was in the stands to support his good friend and doubles partner Kokkinakis.

A spectator is escorted from Rod Laver Arena by security. Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP Photo
A spectator is escorted from Rod Laver Arena by security. Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP Photo

The 24-year-old wild card took the first set against world number six Tsitsipas after a tie-break and, like Kyrgios 24 hours earlier, saved a match point in the fourth.

But Greek star Tsitsipas wore down his tiring opponent and eventually ran out 6-7 (5) 6-4 6-1 6-7 (5) 6-4 winner.

“I just want an ice bath right now,” said Tsitsipas on court afterwards. “Thanasi is a great competitor and a great fighter. It was very difficult facing him today. He’s a talent with huge potential.

“Thanasi wasn’t able to play all these years and we were losing someone who was not on the tour so I’m happy to see him back competing at this level.”

Elsewhere in the men’s draw Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev reached the third round with a straight-sets win over Thiago Monteiro.

Rublev beat the Brazilian 6-4 6-4 7-6 (8) and will face 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez next after the Spaniard fought back to knock out Italy’s 31st seed Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.

Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Czech qualifier Tomas Machac 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3 to set up a meeting with Russian 19th seed Karen Khachanov, who saw off Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in three sets.

There were bizarre scenes on the John Cain Arena after Fabio Fognini, the 16th seed, won a four-hour marathon 14-12 in the deciding set tie-break against Salvatore Caruso.

The entertainment continued after the match as the fiery Italian duo had a frank exchange of views for a few minutes before exiting the court.

Fognini was not in the mood to elaborate afterwards. He said: “We are good friends, and you know me better than the things that happened on court, for me stay on court. I have nothing to say about that question anymore.”

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