Nadal breezes into 3rd round at Australia Open

Melbourne, Jan 20 (AP) Rafael Nadal extended his GrandSlam winning streak to 23 matches, continuing his pursuit of a"Rafa Slam" with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win over American qualifierRyan Sweeting to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

The top-ranked Nadal is aiming to be the first man sinceRod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at thesame time.

He''s conceded only four games en route to the thirdround, sealing his win over Sweeting today with another of hisrifling forehands.

After retiring with an injury in the quarterfinals at thelast Australian Open, Nadal rebounded to win the French,Wimbledon and U S Open.

Nadal hit some shots that Sweeting could barely believe,including an ace to finish the first set and forehand on setpoint in the second when the Spaniard''s curling shot caughtthe baseline for the winner. Sweeting challenged the call ashe walked off, but the call stood.

The only hint of anything other than complete dominationfor Nadal came in the third set, when Sweeting broke serve inthe fifth game and then had game points to bring it back to4-2 in a game that to deuce five times. Again, Nadal held onto convert a break and served out in the next game.

"I feel good. Today the serve started to work muchbetter," Nadal said.

"Only one (bad) moment, when the sun came in my eyes,"Nadal said. "It was a positive victory for me, an importantvictory."

All the coverage of his "Rafa Slam" had no influence onNadal''s mindset.

"No, for sure, it''s not a distraction," he said. "It''sthe last thing I''m thinking about right now. I''m trying tofind my best level."

Kim Clijsters showed why she''s fast becoming a hotfavorite for the women''s title by beating Carla Suarez Navarro6-1, 6-3.

U S Open champion Clijsters opened with a 6-0, 6-0 winover former No 1-ranked Dinara Safina, but Suarez Navarro wasa potentially dangerous second-round matchup. The 22-year-oldSpaniard beat Venus Williams in a second-round upset in herfirst trip to Melbourne Park two years ago.

"She is a tough player. She''s tricky. The balls bounce somuch different than for my first round," Clijsters said. "Iwas just happy with the way that I played. I tried to playboth sides of the court, tried to be aggressive and dictatethe points. And it worked." MORE (AP) CM

With defending champion Serena Williams not playing in Australia due to a prolonged foot problem, third-seededClijsters is hopeful of going one better than her previousbest performance at Melbourne Park -- she lost the 2004 final.

Her third-round 6-0, 6-1 loss here to Nadia Petrova lastyear was her worst in a major. It''s a defeat she claims shedoesn''t dwell on and doesn''t think will influence herpreparations for the same stage this weekend.

"I don''t think I''ve ever played a match like that. So itwas very easy in a way to also forget about it, as well,"Clijsters said.

Joining her in the third round from the bottom half ofthe draw were No 10 Shahar Peer, who beat Sorana Cirstea 6-3,6-2 and No 22 Flavia Pennetta, who beat Lourdes Dominguez 6-2,6-2.

Seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic lost 7-6 (3), 6-3 toChina''s Peng Shuai, continuing an unimpressive streak of sevenlosses in eight matches. It was former world No 1 Jankovic''sworst result at a major since the 2009 U S Open.

Meanwhile, Clijsters has spent just two hours on court sofar, leaving plenty of time to joke with the crowd and take alittle swipe at on-court interviewer Todd Woodbridge, a formerAustralian doubles great. She lightheartedly chided Woodbridgeabout a text message he''d sent to fellow Australian RennaeStubbs, suggesting Clijsters was showing physical andemotional signs of being pregnant.

"No, I''m not!" said Clijsters, who took time off the tourwhen she married and had a child -- daughter Jada, born inFebruary 2008 -- before returning to win the U S Open in 2009.

While Clijsters and Nadal have advanced with ease, VenusWilliams and defending men''s champion Roger Federer haveencountered challenges.

Williams injured a muscle between her stomach and groinyesterday as she twisted for a volley. She needed a medicaltimeout after losing the first set. She was on the verge oftears, and apparently elimination. But she refused to stopplaying and eventually beat Sandra Zahlavova of the CzechRepublic 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4.

Federer faced a more familiar problem -- Gilles Simon.

He''s one of only three men on tour with a winning recordagainst the Swiss great.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion admitted he was "happy Isurvived a scare."

Nadal, one of the other men who have a winning recordagainst 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer, watched the matchon TV.

"It was fantastic tennis. Simon had an amazing comeback.

In the fifth set, Federer played unbelievably well inimportant moments." (AP) CM

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