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Thursday, 19 January 2017 14:24 PM GMT
Australian Open Night 4: Serena, Nadal put on clinics rounds up the action from Night 4 of the 2017 Australian Open. READ MORE

If she is following the Australian Open from her home in Nevada, Steffi Graf might just be getting a little bit nervous.

Serena Williams, still smarting from being bunted off the top of the rankings in 2016, is starting to look like she’s in the mood to win the title again, a win that would move her ahead of Graf to the Open era record of 23 Grand Slams.

While Rafael Nadal finished off the night session on day four with a brilliant 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 drubbing of Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, it was the performance of the six-time women’s champion that caught the eye, her 6-3, 6-4 win over Lucie Safarova a second solid performance. 

That’s no surprise given her record at Melbourne Park, but after ending 2016 injured, there was always a question mark as to how she would rock up to the first Grand Slam of the year.

But the 35-year-old American dealt with the challenge of the very talented Safarova, in what was a repeat of their 2015 French Open final, progressing with relative ease on a warm evening, with very little breeze.

“That was a great performance,” she said. “I played well. She's a former top 10 player. The last time we played together was in the finals of a Grand Slam. You know, it's not an easy match.

"She's a really good player. You have to go for more, which obviously makes for a few more errors. So I think it was overall a really good match, on both of our ends.”

Nadal looking strong

If Serena was good, then Nadal was close to sensational as he demolished Baghdatis in less than two hours, crunching those famous forehands into the corners and forcing the former runner-up to scramble time and time again.

Twelve months ago, Nadal was sent packing by his fellow Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, in the first round. It's now the 11th time in 12 years he has made it to the third round, and now he faces a blockbuster against Sascha Zverev, a teenage German who Nadal has said will be a future Grand Slam winner and potential world No.1.

“He has all the shots: great serve, great forehand, great backhand, everything,” Nadal said of Zverev. “He's a complete player. I need to put a rhythm very, very high to try to don't let him play in comfortable positions. That's what I'm going to try.

"I know I have been working great. I know I have been working a lot and very well. I have been practising at high level. So every time that I have the chance to go on court, I am able to have more confidence on what I'm doing.”

Around the Grounds

Daria Gavrilova continued her run with a hard-fought, three-set win over Ana Konjuh, Benoit Paire triumphed over Fabio Fognini in five sets while Dominic Thiem moved on with a four-set win over Jordan Thompson.

Rally of the night 

Thiem executed this perfect tweener-lob combination to turn the tables against Thompson...

Shock of the night

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares had such a brilliant 2016 – ending the year as the world’s No.1 pair – but they were unceremoniously dumped out in round one, ending the defence of their title. Beaten 6-3, 7-6 by Sam Querrey and Donald Young, they headed off – Soares to play mixed and Jamie to catch the first flight home.

Quote of the night

“He played great one week and a half ago in Doha, winning the title. So then today was probably an accident, that's all.” Nadal on Djokovic’s shock defeat by Denis Istomin.

Speech of the night

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni waited 19 years between wins at the Australian Open and then just a couple of days more for another. This time it was a big one - a drubbing of third seed Agnieszka Radwanska. And she matched her performance with a lovely speech.

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