Fired up Rafael Nadal downs Cameron Norrie

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Fired up Rafael Nadal downs Cameron Norrie

Rafael Nadal was too good for Britain’s Cameron Norrie as he won 7-5 6-2 7-5 to reach the last 16 at the 2021 Australian Open.

Norrie, who downed the top-ranked Brit, Dan Evans, earlier in the tournament, put up a doughty resistance on Rod Laver Arena but ultimately came up short.

Nadal, who has not triumphed at Melbourne Park since his single crown back in 2009, has notably compensated for a nagging back injury with a super-aggressive approach this year and it continues to pay off.

With Norrie out of the tournament, Britain no longer has a representative in either singles draw, but he could not have battled more tirelessly against the second seed.

Eurosport expert and former British star Jo Durie said: “This will have been such a valuable experience for Norrie on the big stage, and it will have given him a lot of confidence.”

The world number two could hardly have made a more emphatic start to the match with a huge ace to get the ball rolling and assert his dominance on the encounter.

Norrie made an electric start himself and even managed to break Nadal to lead 3-2 in the opening set to give a brief glimpse of a more competitive clash before the 34-year-old hit back.

But Norrie was immediately broken to love and dropped serve again at 5-6 as Nadal wrapped up the first set in 48 minutes.

Thereafter, it was one-way traffic. Remarkably, Nadal has now clinched his place in the second week of a Grand Slam for the 49th time.

The Spaniard did not look overly troubled by his back injury during the match, and will have been relieved to have secured his swift progress with a straight-sets win.

Nadal will next take on Fabio Fognini in the fourth round in Melbourne after the fiery Italian beat home favourite Alex De Minaur on Margaret Court Arena.

“We have played a lot of times; he has beaten me a few times,” Nadal said of Fognini. “I need to keep improving and you don’t expect any easy games.”