Australian Open: Rafael Nadal revels in ‘special’ return to surge into last 16

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Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2022 Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his third round match against Russia's Karen Khachanov

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 21, 2022 Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his third round match against Russia’s Karen Khachanov REUTERS/Morgan Sette

Rafael Nadal dropped a set for the first time at this year’s Australian Open but played his best match since injury to overcome Karen Khachanov and steam into the fourth round on Friday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion rolled into a two-sets lead and was looking to sweep it in straight sets, before the Russian 28th seed hit back to take the third.

That stung the Spanish sixth seed into action as he broke early to power home.

Nadal won 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in 2hr 50min in a late night match on Rod Laver Arena and will face either Russian 18th seed Aslan Karatsev or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the round of 16.

“It’s a very special week for me coming back from where I have…

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