Spanish third seed Rafael Nadal got his game back as he breezed past Israel’s Dudi Sela in straight sets to seal a fourth round ticket at the Australian Open on Friday night.
The 2009 champion, who almost narrowly lost to Tim Smyczek on the same Rod Laver Arena court a couple of nights ago, blasted 43 winners, won 76 per cent of his first serve, 63 per cent of his second and, claimed 21 out of 32 net points to claim a 6-1 6-0 7-5 win over his 106th-ranked opponent in two hours and four minutes.
Nadal told the crowd after the win that maybe the fact that he had “slept a lot” after a battling a five-setter with Smyczek on Wednesday helped him up the antics against Sela, but now faces No. 14 seed Kevin Anderson for the second time.
The South African advanced into the round of 16 for the third straight year after he struck 18 aces to beat No. 24 seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(6).
Nadal, who underwent appendix surgery in early November last year, lost just 25 points in the first two sets of the contest, while Sela’s error counts reflected on the board.
Sela, 29, gathered brief momentum in the third set, but couldn’t orchestrate a comeback despite having break points at 3-3 and then at 5-5.
“[I was] happy the way I was physically on court tonight,” said Nadal. “Obviously, happy [with] the way I played the first two sets. Then [in] the third, I made more mistakes. It’s normal to play every day with a little bit more ups and downs when you are out for a while.
“My serve worked well on the break points. I had one lucky break… the net [cord] with my forehand. But the rest of the points I played with determination, going to the net, having some good serves.”
Women’s No. 2 Maria Sharapova dominated upcoming talent Zarina Diyas to progress to the fourth round.
Sharapova, who also had struggled to outlast Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova on Wednesday, cruised past No. 31 seeded Diyas 6-1 6-1 in just 61 minutes.
“I think I rebounded well,” Sharapova, who fended off two match points down 5-4 in the third set to force a 6-1 4-6 7-5 win against Panova, said.
“I had a good hit yesterday. I thought about what I wanted to try to achieve tonight, no matter who I played. I focused on myself more than anything else. Just tried to be a bit more aggressive and concentrate- I thought I did a good job of focusing well.”
The Russian will be up against No. 21 seed Peng Shuai in the fourth round, after the Chinese won Kazakhstani, Yuroslava Shvedova 7-6 (7) 6-3. Sharapova leads Peng 4-1 on head-to-head record.
Third seed Simona Halep held off a late surge from Bethanie Mattek-Sands to also advance from the third round. Halep will play Yanina Wickmayer, who came back from one set down to eliminate Italy’s Sara Errani 4-6, 6-4 6-3.
No. 7 seed Eugenie Biuchard ran away with a 7-5 6-0 win over No. 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova, and sets up a fourth round clash with Julia Georges.
Australian Open Men’s Singles – Third Round Results
Andreas Seppi (ITA) d  Roger Federer (SUI) 6-4 76(5) 46 76(5)
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) d Dudi Sela (ISR) 61 60 75
 Andy Murray (GR) d Joao Sousa (POR) 61 61 75
 Tomas Berdych (CZE) d Viktor Troicki (SRB) 64 63 64
 Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) d Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) 46 63 36 63 63
 Kevin Anderson (RSA) d.  Richard Gasquet (FRA) 64 76(3) 76(6)
Bernard Tomic (AUS) d Sam Groth (AUS) 64 76(8) 63
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d Malek Jaziri (TUN) 63 76(6) 61