WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Australian Open tips as the great Rafael Nadal rolls into a third-round showdown with big-serving Karen Khachanov.

Australian Open Tips – Karen Khachanov V Rafael Nadal

20:00 (AEDT), Fri 21st Jan @ Melbourne Park

History: Played 7: Nadal 7 V Khachanov 0

Last meeting: Davis Cup, 2019 (RR): Nadal d Khachanov 6-3 7-6

Final Thoughts: Rafael Nadal’s quest to break a 13-year Australian Open drought and win a record 21st Grand Slam title received a massive boost the moment Novak Djokovic got his deportation orders. The sixth seed has cruised into the third round – but 28th seed Karen Khachanov should provide Rafa with his first real test of the tournament.

Nadal made short work of Marcos Giron (6-1 6-4 6-2) in the first round and Yannick Hanfmann (6-2 6-3 6-4) in the second. He has been near-perfect on serve, offering up just two break-point chances in both matches and saving them all.

Nadal won his sole Australian Open in 2009 but has reached four finals since. He has been eliminated before the quarter-finals in Melbourne just once since 2005. Meanwhile, he has made it to at least the fourth round in his past 17 Grand Slam appearances.

After dropping the first set of the tournament against American Denis Kudla, Khachanov has barely missed a beat. He eventually overwhelmed Kudla 3-6 6-3 6-2 7-6 before disposing of Benjamin Bonzi in straight sets. The 25-year-old Russian has fired down 36 aces so far.

Khachanov warmed up for the Australian Open by reaching the Adelaide International final, where he lost to Gael Monfils.

He boasts two Grand Slam quarter-final appearances on his résumé (2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon) but the third round has been a bogey for him at the Australian Open. Khachanov exited at this stage in each of the past three Australian Opens, at the hands of Roberto Bautista Agut, Nick Kyrgios and Matteo Berrettini.

Nadal has won all seven of his previous encounters with Khachanov – most recently during the 2019 Davis Cup. Khachanov has taken just one set off Nadal, going down in a four-setter in the third round of 2018 US Open.

The 35-year-old has been absolutely dominant so far in 2022, taking out the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month. But he is yet to be pushed. Khachanov’s atomic serve can put pressure on the all-time great.

In saying that, Khachanov will need to be flawless just to take a set off Nadal. The Spaniard is a deserving $1.17 favourite and his vastly superior all-court game renders him excellent value to get this done in straight sets.

Tip: Set Betting – Nadal 3-0 @ $2.00


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