Two days on from his literally gut wrenching five-set victory over Tim Smyczek, Rafael Nadal will return to the Australian Open courts to attempt to book his place in the last 16. Nadal suffered from stomach upset and cramps before prevailing against the American qualifier in the second round and now takes on Israeli veteran Dudi Sela in the last match of Friday’s evening session on Rod Laver Arena.
The scheduling of his third-round encounter will surely have been a relief to the Spaniard. The heat and humidity that Nadal suggested may have played a part in his physical struggles when coming from two sets to one down to beat Smyczek will not be nearly as oppressive. Playing in the final match of the day means he will also get the maximum time to recover after battling for four hours and 12 minutes. While Nadal’s fitness and ability to recover is usually the last thing anyone would question, the world No. 3 has barely played since Wimbledon last year due to a wrist injury and appendicitis. Even the 14-time Grand Slam winner played down his chances heading into the Australian Open.
Although he is unlikely to admit it publicly, Nadal will doubles have taken some comfort, too, from the discovery that the man going up against him in the third round will be the 109th-ranked Sela, rather than Lukas Rosol. The Czech 28th seed famously inflicted a stunning loss on Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012 and also gave him trouble at the All England Club last year. Instead of the big-hitting Rosol, Nadal will take on the diminutive, more methodically styled Sela. Surprisingly, Nadal has never before met the 29-year-old, who may struggle to find the weapons to do what Smyczek so nearly accomplished.
It promises to be a similar prospect for the man Nadal is seeded to meet in the semifinals at the, Roger Federer. The in-form Swiss dropped the first set of his second round match against Simone Bolelli before winning the next three, and now takes on another Italian in the shape of Andreas Seppi. The 30-year-old, who has a career-high ranking of 18 and currently finds himself at 46, impressively saw off 29th seed Jeremy Chardy in four sets in the second round. But the task now awaiting him is a sizable one. Seppi has lost all 10 of his meetings with the 17-time Grand Slam champion, with their set count reading an emphatic 21-1 in Federer’s favor.
Should Federer, the second seed in Melbourne, progress, he would take on the winner of exciting young Australian Nick Kyrgios, who beat Nadal at Wimbledon last year, and Tunisian Malek Jaziri. Nadal, should he beat Sela, would face the winner of big-serving South African Kevin Anderson and Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Schedule info: Roger Federer vs. Andreas Seppi will be the third and final match of the day session on Rod Laver Arena, which begins at 7 p.m. EST. Rafael Nadal vs. Dudi Sela will be the second match of the evening session, which begins with Maria Sharapova taking on Zarina Diyas at 3 a.m. EST.
TV channel: Coverage will be provided by ESPN2
Live stream: ESPN3, Watch ESPN