Rafa continues Aussie assault | Australian Open


That's not to say Ebden didn't put up a fight. Any notions that would have been applied were all his own way midway through the opening set, when the Australian fashioned three break points at 3-3, two with smart forehand passes down the line that left the world No.2 for dead.

Nadal served his way out of trouble on the first two, but Ebden made him play the third, constructing the point brilliantly to surge forward only to bury the high volley into the tape.

Yet as often happens when a gilt-edged chance passes, the world No.48 was broken in the next game, and with that Nadal assumed control of the contest.

To that point Ebden committed to playing on the baseline and starving the Spaniard of time in a bid to keep him off balance. But with his defenses breached, Nadal found him easy prey as he retreated just too deep to force the pace.

Twin breaks in both the second and third sets followed, the last sealed despite Ebden's show-stopping efforts at the Spaniard with a tweener on break point as it slipped 5-2 down.

The Australian fought off one match point and even brought up a break point of his own, only for Nadal to bury and unplayable second serve. Two points later, the game was up to a clean win, as outdated Ebden with 33 winners to 23, and gave up only 15 unforced errors to his opponents 30.

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