Australian Open 2021: Rafa Nadal unfazed by unruly fan, coasts into third round in Melbourne

Rafa Nadal's march towards the third round of the Australian Open was briefly halted on Thursday when an unruly spectator was removed from the Rod Laver Arena for interrupting play, as the second-seeded Spaniard watched on in amusement.

The incident had no bearing on the match, however, as the world No.2 completed a commanding performance to swat aside American qualifier Michael Mmoh 6-1 6-4 6-2 and stay on track for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

Nadal was serving for the second set at 5-4 when he was interrupted by a disturbance in the stands. The chair umpire asked a female spectator to be quiet and when Nadal looked towards the crowd she showed him the middle finger.

"What? Me?" asked a bewildered Nadal in response, maintaining a smile on his face as he looked at the woman.

After a couple of points in the game, she again interrupted play and was subsequently removed by security.

Asked during his on-court interview if he knew the spectator, a giggling Nadal said: "No. And honestly, I don't want to know."

"Maybe she took too much gin or tequila," Nadal later told reporters, continuing to smile. "But honestly was (a) strange situation but funny at the same time.

"Somebody doing the finger to me, I don't know the reason, but I was surprised, yes, but at the same time I was thinking, 'poor girl', because probably she was drunk or something."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 11: A women gestures towards the players as play is interrupted due to shouting from the crowd during the Men's Singles second round match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Michael Mmoh of the United States during day four of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 11, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 11: A spectator is asked to leave by security as Rafael Nadal of Spain plays his Men's Singles second round match against Michael Mmoh of the United States during day four of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 11, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Back concerns not apparent 

Nadal did not play in Spain's ATP Cup campaign last week with a back problem and following his opening win in Melbourne he had said the injury was still bothering him.

The back issue was still troubling him, the Spaniard said after reaching the third round where he faces Briton Cameron Norrie, adding he was trying to find solutions to manage it.

Nadal showed no discernible sign of discomfort against the 177th-ranked Mmoh under the closed roof in the evening's final match and peppered the blue court with 40 winners as the American looked on helplessly.

The Spanish left-hander converted five of his 11 breakpoints against Mmoh while not allowing his opponent a single opportunity on his own serve.

Nadal's forehand is considered among the best in the game but his double-handed backhand was also strong against Mmoh.

"I've been improving my backhand all my career," he said. "When I was younger I was able to run everywhere. Now I need to have better shots and the backhand is an important shot for me now.

"When I am playing the backhand well the court opens up better for me. I can produce angles with my forehand but when my backhand is working, normally I am able to play much better."

The 2009 champion, who is tied with Roger Federer at 20 Grand Slam singles titles, will now prepare to face 69th-ranked Norrie, who beat Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin 3-6 7-5 6-3 7-6(3) after a rain delay and switch of court.

Other second round reults in the men's draw 

Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev celebrated his 25th birthday with a 6-2 7-5 6-1 win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena. He next faces Serbian 28th seed Filip Krajinovic.

Home favourite Alex de Minaur struck 30 winners en route a dominant 6-3 6-3 7-5 victory over Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas.

Italy's 16th seed Fabio Fognini needed almost four hours to find a way past Salvatore Caruso, defeating his compatriot 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6(12) on John Cain Arena court to reach the third round for a fourth straight year.

Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a huge scare to beat Australian wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-7(5) 6-4 in a thriller lasting four hours and 32 minutes.

Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Czech qualifier Tomas Machac 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3 to set up a third-round meeting with Russian 19th seed Karen Khachanov.

Croatian 22nd seed Borna Coric crashed out following a 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4 defeat to American Mackenzie McDonald.

Russia's Karen Khachanov, seeded 19th, eased into the third round with a 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory over Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis.

Spain's Feliciano Lopez, playing in his 75th consecutive Grand Slam, rallied from two sets down to beat Italy's 31st seed Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 in three hours and 18 minutes.

Russia's seventh seed Andrey Rublev extended his winning run to six matches in 2021 with a comfortable 6-4 6-4 7-6(8) victory over Brazil's Thiago Monteiro.

Reuters.