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Rafael Nadal stays on track for grand slam No 20 after reaching third round of Australian Open

Vicki Hodges
Nadal came through a sticky second set to overcome Delbonis in straight sets - Getty Images AsiaPac

12:30PM

Nadal speaks

It was a tough match, I lost a lot of opportunities on the break points but I found a way of winning the second set and was more aggressive in the third set.

Nadal on striking the ball girl:

She was a super brave girl. That was one of the scariest moments when the ball struck her on the head. I remember a moment at Wimbledon many years ago, so I'm glad she's all OK. 

 

12:26PM

Great touch by Nadal

Nadal shakes the hand of Delbonis and then goes over to the ball girl again to check all is well. She shakes her head, smiling. A moment to treasure, if not a slightly painful one too. 

 

12:25PM

Nadal 6-3, 7-6, 6-1 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Blink and you miss it as Nadal races clear to three match points. He misses the first, slapping an overhead into the net which draws a groan and then chuckle from the Spaniard as he holds his head in shame. 

A forehand down the middle settles it on the next point. Grand slam No 20 is still very much on. GAME, SET AND MATCH: Rafa Nadal beats Federico Delbonis 6-3, 7-6, 6-1

12:22PM

Nadal* 6-3, 7-6, 5-1 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Nadal has been afforded to play with a 0-30 handicap on most Delbonis' service games this contest. Nadal catches a ball girl with a groundstroke, unintentionally of course, but makes up for his misplaced shot by rushing over to check she is OK and giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek. 

The ball girl is back into action during the next point. As is Nadal. NADAL BREAKS. 

12:17PM

Nadal 6-3, 7-6, 4-1 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Delbonis ends Nadal's run of seven straight points with a great backhand down the line for 30-15. A winner off his opposite wing moves him to a point of Nadal, but the Spaniard's trusty forehand cements the break. 

Nadal keeps plugging away against Delbonis Credit: Reuters

 

12:12PM

Nadal* 6-3, 7-6, 3-1 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Delbonis back to his error-strewn best at the start of his service game, allowing Nadal three free points. Surely the Spaniard will make one of these count?

He does, finally, finally. But not without some great play by Delbonis, who hangs around still making a nuisance of himself before running out of steam. NADAL FINALLY BREAKS AGAIN. 

12:09PM

Nadal 6-3, 7-6, 2-1 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Nadal still keeping things ticking along smoothly, not offering a sniff of a break. It's efficient play rather than spectacular today. That is on his serve at least. The one break point won of 18 means Nadal's play has been far from flawless. 

 

12:04PM

Nadal* 6-3, 7-6, 1-1 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Spaniard tries to rush Delbonis during his service rhythm, moving in to take advantage of a second serve or two. But it doesn't throw the Argentine. He holds to 15. Just needs to try and trouble the Nadal service game now. 

12:00PM

Nadal* 6-3, 7-6, 1-0 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Delbonis recovers well from losing that close tie-break and keeping the heat on Nadal in this opening service game of the set. Takes the No 1 seed to deuce before Nadal pulls away. He's still yet to earn a break point on the Spaniard's serve. 

11:53AM

Nadal 6-3, 7-6 Delbonis TIE-BREAK

Delbonis holds (1-0) before a whipped forehand brings Nadal level on his serve (1-1) and backs up another solid first serve (1-2). Nadal pulls out his first fist-pump in a while by edging ahead (3-1) before Delbonis eats into his lead with an overhead smash (2-3). 

Another cracking first serve from Nadal is too good and the Spaniard heads to the changeover with a two-point cushion (2-4).

An ace down the T moves Nadal closer to the finish line this set (2-5), but Delbonis makes Nadal play one more shot during next rally, and it pays dividends (3-5).

Nadal stays behind the baseline during next rally, senses move to advance and then thinks twice. Delbonis seizes the chance to move in instead and takes it (4-5). 

Another fist-pump and mini 'c'mon' now from Nadal as Delbonis flicks a slice into the middle (4-6). Two set points for Nadal and he takes it on the first (4-7). NADAL WINS TIE-BREAK TO TAKE SECOND SET FOR TWO SETS TO LOVE LEAD. 

11:44AM

Nadal 6-3, 6-6 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

No signs of nerves or tightness from Nadal as he races to two game points. Still having plenty of joy at the net. This set heads to a tiebreak.  

11:39AM

Nadal* 6-3, 5-6 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Delbonis still blowing hot and cold on his serve. An eighth double of the match still gifting Nadal free points. This time, the Argentine gets his act together at 15-all with some punchy groundstrokes. But the errors come again from Delbonis. A wayward backhand hands Nadal another break point. But in true jekyll and hyde fashion, Delbonis pulls out a swinging ace and then a monster of a forehand down the line for advantage. He has negotiated himself out of another sticky mess. 

11:35AM

Nadal 6-3, 5-5 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Nadal sends Delbonis out wide with a crafty drop shot, lines up his backhand down the line but inexplicably pushes his reply into the tramlines. Nervy moments here as Nadal loses a challenge after striking long. Delbonis has an opening here at 15-30. Nadal is quick to close the door, getting on the front foot. But Delbonis won't go away, turning the aggressor and rushing the net to dispatch his own winner for deuce. Nadal shows a steady head to steer his way out of any potential trouble ahead. He holds. Still no break of serves this set. 

11:29AM

Nadal* 6-3, 4-5 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Wait. What's this? A COMFORTABLE hold from Delbonis. No drama, no break points faced. I knew something was about to change, but this wasn't what I expected. Will he break now to win the second set?

11:26AM

Nadal 6-3, 4-4 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

The story of this match continuing to follow the same narrative, Nadal holds to 15. But you sense something is about to change as we get closer to business end of this set. 

11:20AM

Nadal* 6-3, 3-4 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

As you were for Delbonis, slipping to 0-30 again. He recovers - again - in style. It's almost exhibition-like tennis as Delbonis has Nadal scampering to the net, then sends him on a wild-goose chase to the baseline. Nadal, being Nadal, does his best to retrieve, but without success. 

Nadal won't let his opponent off the hook, securing two more break points. But Delbonis just loves the danger and drama and the pressure of being on the edge. Three more break points this game come and go. It's a staggering 17 missed by Nadal for the match now. What strength again from Delbonis. He holds again. 

11:14AM

Nadal 6-3, 3-3 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Great hands from Nadal as he delicately dinks a backhand volley en route to yet another comfortable hold to 15. Can he make the most of the opportunities which keep being presented to him on the Delbonis serve now?

11:09AM

Nadal* 6-3, 2-3 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

The error count continuing to stack up for Delbonis, now at 26 for the match as Nadal moves a mini-break up at 0-30. The Argentine recovers in style. Using his big frame to swing and smash home a winner. That was one for the photographers right there. Nadal brings up another two break points before Delbonis finally finds his 'A' service game again. From a position of trouble again, the Argentine gets himself out of another hole. Four straight points and it's another hold and another chance missed by Nadal. That's now five break points this set squandered by the top seed. 

Nadal is bidding for a 20th grand slam in Melbourne Credit: Rex

 

11:03AM

Nadal 6-3, 2-2 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Nadal blinks first during a brutal 22-shot rally, sending a forehand into the tramlines. The Spaniard didn't much like that and so delivers his next forehand into the same area, this time he executes it perfectly. Nadal doesn't give Delbonis another sniff of a point. 

10:59AM

Nadal* 6-3, 1-2 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Groans on Rod Laver Arena as Delbonis strikes a regulation overhead smash into the foot of the net. He has better joy from close range on the next point, punching a volley home. Just when Delbonis gives himself an opening at 40-30, he sets a trap for himself, another double bringing Nadal in at deuce. He gets the rub of the green on the next point, the ball striking the tape but landing favourably in the Spaniard's half. He avoids getting into any sort of stickiness by seeing out the game. Another important hold. 

10:54AM

Nadal 6-3, 1-1 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

The clock ticks past the hour mark as Nadal makes a great pass with Delbonis at sea at the net. The Spaniard holds to love to keep up his dominance on his serve. 

10:51AM

Nadal* 6-3, 0-1 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Sluggish start to the second from Delbonis. Another double fault during an error-strewn game hands Nadal three break points early doors. The Argentine starts to claw his way out of a big hole with two big first serves  - and then makes it a third for deuce. He shows strength to see out the game with five straight points. Good resilience, but he likes to make things hard for himself. 

10:43AM

Nadal 6-3 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Nadal in full control on his service game. He gifts Delbonis only a third point off his serve by striking into the middle and then the Argentine draws level at 30-all with a forehand cross-court winner which lands flush on the line.

At the fourth set point of asking, Nadal steps in to deliver a punching forehand winner. NADAL WINS OPENING SET. 

10:37AM

Nadal* 5-3 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

OOh er, the double fault count continues to rack up for Delbonis. Now at four for the match. Argentine looking flat as Nadal brings up two set points. Delbonis finally gets a couple of decent first serves in which cause Nadal problems. He backs it up with a third straight point to turn the game in his favour, and has the hold with another big first serve. That's better. Nadal must serve for the first set. 

10:32AM

Nadal 5-2 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

The world No 1 still serving well, his first serve percentage up at 91. Has only dropped two points on his serve this match. Solid. 

10:29AM

Nadal* 4-2 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

Classic Nadal again, looping a forehand with perfect precision into the corner for 15-30. He shows he is human, over-egging a forehand when stepping into the court and Delbonis, this time, wraps up a hold without facing a break point. 

10:25AM

Nadal 4-1 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

Nadal fancies his chances at the net now, cutting short the rallies where required. A cheeky drop shot out wide has Delbonis scampering to reach. The big man gets across but can't control his return. 

 

10:21AM

Nadal* 3-1 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

How long a Delbonis service game this time round? If it doesn't rain, it pours for the Argentine who now gets stung with a foot fault. He shakes off the call for 30-0, and then 40-15 but gets caught in a spin chasing and turning to strike a forehand and pushes long. Here we go again then, deuce time or deja vu time rather. Nadal produces a trademark forehand winner and makes the break at the first time of asking on this occasion. NADAL BREAKS.  

Delbonis struggling to compete with world No 1 Credit: Getty Images

 

10:15AM

Nadal 2-1 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

No service troubles for Nadal again as he maintains his high levels, holding to 15. Delbonis, thankfully, gets a couple of minutes respite from serving again. That left arm will still be throbbing. 

10:12AM

Nadal* 1-1 Delbonis (*denotes next server)

The Argentine has a massive service action. Throwing his racket in line with his ball toss arm and stretching his tall frame. He doesn't get much lift off the ground and it's not a rhythm he's settled into quickly - this first service game producing two doubles already. He saves four break points with the game passing five minutes. Nadal won't let up from the baseline, wining a duel lasting 18 shots to set up a fifth break point.

The game passes eight minutes now, the Argentine looking like he's been out there a good while longer than the 13 recorded minutes. Nadal keeps asking Delbonis to play one more shot, starts drawing the errors but neither man can win two straight points. Delbonis shows great strength and variety, moving to the net to bring up game point as this game clock passes 10 minutes. But still there's no end in sight to this game.

Delbonis sends down a third double to bring up a mighty seventh deuce. He mops his brow. Finally, finally, he gets over the line and holds after 14 minutes, saving six break points in the process. He retreats to his corner for a big rub on his towel. DELBONIS FINALLY HOLDS. 

9:56AM

Nadal 1-0 Delbonis* (*denotes next server)

World No 1 and top seed here, Nadal opens proceedings in his fluorescent and sleeveless pink vest. A comfortable and steady opening game against the Argentine. 

9:53AM

Here we go then..

Warm ups finished and we're about to get under way.

9:39AM

Not long to wait

With Simona Halep having completed a straight sets win over Great Britain's Harriet Dart, it means it won't be long until we see the players out on Rod Laver Arena.

9:33AM

Nadal's Australian Open mission continues

After needing just over two hours to beat Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in his opening match at this year's Australian Open, Rafael Nadal returns to the court to take on Federico Delbonis today. The Spaniard is chasing a 20th Grand Slam title and first in Melbourne since his only win in 2009.  There has been four runners-up finishes since then too, including last year when he lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.

But counting titles is, Nadal claims, not his main motivation.

“If I am able to reach my highest level, that's the thing that I have to worry about. If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances. If not, impossible.

“So I don't care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about try to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career. Is not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no?

“I am very satisfied about my tennis career because I give it all most of the time. That's only thing that matters because I don't think -- honestly, something I don't really think about it. I don't think in the future being achieving 21 Grand Slams, for example, I'm going to be happier than if I am 19 in 10 years."

And so, to today's match up between Nadal and Delbonis, a case of Spain vs Argentina. Unsurprisingly Nadal, the world no 1, holds the superior record against Delbonis, ranked 76. The two have faced each other three times before, on clay in 2013 and 2015, before the hard courts of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Each time Nadal has walked away with a straight sets victory and ominously, never conceded more than three games in a set....