The 2009 Australian Open will always hold a special place in the scrapbook of Rafael Nadal. Already anointed the “King of Clay”, Nadal defeated Roger Federer in five sets to earn his first hard-court Grand Slam singles title. He was the first Spaniard to win the Australian Open title and became just the fourth male tennis player (with Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, and Andre Agassi) to win Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces. Nadal also became the first to hold Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces at the same time. Pickings have been slim for the Spaniard on his past eight visits to Melbourne but he turned back the clock yesterday, staging an incredible comeback after teen sensation Alexander Zverev looked odds-on to send the world no. 9 packing. The ninth-seeded Nadal came from two sets to one down to win 4-6 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2 in an epic third-round encounter which lasted four hours and six minutes. Coincidentally, Zverev had butchered a match point before losing his only previous encounter against Nadal last year at Indian Wells.
Sir Andy to barely raise a sweat
Fresh from his dominant win over Tomas Berdych on Friday night, Roger Federer returns to Rod Laver Arena tonight to take on fifth seed Kei Nishikori. Federer holds a 4-2 head-to-head record over Nishikori, but the pair has never met in a Grand Slam. The 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka faces Andreas Seppi at Margaret Court Arena while ground pass holders will be able to see French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Brit Dan Evans in the fourth match at Hisense Arena. Men’s top seed Andy Murray highlights the day session as he meets Mischa Zverev, the older brother of Alexander. Zverev has maintained a spot just inside the top 50 for several years but has never risen to the ranks of Murray, who presents a poor match-up for the Russian-born German. The Scot is a prohibitive $1.25 to win this in straight sets but backable at the -9.5-game handicap ($2.00 with William Hill). Having endured that circus that comes with Nick Kyrgios, Seppi enters his match-up against Wawrinka full of confidence. He has enough game to frustrate the Swiss from the baseline and should force this to a minimum of four sets +34.5 games is $1.80 with Unibet).
Sun hasn’t yet set on Venus
Women’s top seed Angelique Kerber takes on big-hitting American CoCo Vandeweghe after she dispatched Eugenie Bouchard in the previous round. Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova opens the day session against compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, followed by Venus Williams against qualifier Mona Barthel. Seventh seed Garbine Muguruza will also be in action against Sorana Cirstea. It’s incredible to think the 36-year-old Williams first played this tournament in 1998, and she’s still knocking opponents off the court with some blistering groundstrokes. Barthel, who silenced the local crowds with her win over Ashleigh Barty, has already played and won six matches at Melbourne Park after coming through the qualifiers. Let’s ride this Williams bandwagon for at least one more round (2-0 sets at $2.10 on Crownbet). Vandeweghe is a dominant player when her serve is on song but not so hot when her opponent fires serves back with similar enthusiasm. That’s the case as the American takes on defending champ Kerber today. The German should have this decided inside 20.5 games ($1.83 with Ladbrokes).