Rafael Nadal breezes into second week at Australian Open

Nadal beats countryman Carreno Busta in straight sets (2:05)

Rafael Nadal makes easy work of fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open. (2:05)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Rafael Nadal feels good about his tennis as the Australian Open heads to Week 2.

"I needed to improve," he said, "and I improved."

This assessment arrived after Nadal needed fewer than 100 minutes to move a step closer to a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over 27th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round Saturday.

"When he plays that comfortably," Carreno Busta said, "there's nothing you can do."

Nadal's down-the-line lefty forehand was perfectly on target and "impossible to read," Carreno Busta explained.

"Starting to create damage," Nadal said.

Nadal's serving was close to impeccable.

"Good news," Nadal said.

There was a lot of that for him. He won 52 of 62 points on his serve. He never offered his opponent a break chance. He finished with seven unforced errors among the match's 125 total points -- and six times as many winners with 42.

"My best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt," Nadal said. "Big difference between today and the previous days."

Against "this Rafa," Carreno Busta said, "you feel a little powerless."

And to think: Nadal did this after staying up late enough to watch on TV as the man he's chasing in the Grand Slam count, Roger Federer, was pushed to a fifth-set tiebreaker before getting through to the fourth round at nearly 1 a.m.

Nadal won the Australian Open in 2009 and has been the runner-up four times since, including a year ago against Novak Djokovic.

It's Nadal's least successful major tournament: The 33-year-old Spaniard owns 12 trophies from the French Open, four from the U.S. Open and two from Wimbledon.

He has said he is not focused on whether he gets to No. 20 by the end of these two weeks -- or where he ends up in the final count in comparison to Federer or Djokovic, who is third on the list with 16 at the moment.

Likewise, Federer says he figures he knows both of those rivals will overtake him in the Slam standings at some point.

For now, Nadal is tracking his progress on a match-by-match basis.

And for one warm, sunny afternoon in Rod Laver Arena, at least, he was pleased.

Next up, Nadal will take on No. 23 Nick Kyrgios, who defeated No. 16 Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (6), 6-7 (7), 7-6 (8).

Kyrgios and Nadal have been unfriendly rivals of late. When they met in a second-round match at Wimbledon last year, Kyrgios acknowledged attempting to hit Nadal with a ball and refused to apologize for doing so. Nadal at the time called the action dangerous.

During his second-round match Thursday, Kyrgios mocked Nadal's mannerisms. After being warned for taking more than the allotted 25 seconds between serves, Kyrgios mimicked how Nadal fidgets before a point, as if to remind the chair umpire that there are folks who more egregiously waste time.

When a reporter asked Nadal about Kyrgios' imitation of the 19-time major champion, the Spaniard replied: "I really don't care. I'm here to play tennis."

No. 17 Andrey Rublev stretched his winning streak to 15 matches, including 11-0 in 2020, by coming back to defeat No. 11 David Goffin 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Advancing to a matchup with a quarterfinal berth at stake were No. 5 Dominic Thiem and No. 10 Gael Monfils.

Thiem, twice a runner-up to Nadal at Roland Garros, eliminated No. 29 Taylor Fritz of the U.S. 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4, and Monfils beat qualifier Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3.

"Such a great, entertaining player," Thiem said about Monfils. "It's nice to see his show."

Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka moved into the fourth round after 19th-seeded American John Isner stopped playing in the second set.

Wawrinka led 6-4, 4-1 when Isner was visited by a trainer at a changeover and then retired from the match.

2019 U.S. Open runner-up and fourth-seed Daniil Medvedev had no trouble beating 96th-ranked Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

Popyrin, a 20-year-old Australian who is ranked 96th, was dealing with a left hip issue.

Medvedev faces Wawrinka next.

Alexander Zverev is back in the fourth round after beating 36-year-old Fernando Verdasco in straight sets, and it means another $10,000 to the bush fire relief effort in Australia.

The 22-year-old German player has pledged $10,000 for every match win at the Australian Open, and his entire prize money if he wins the title at Melbourne Park this year. His best run at a major to date is to the quarterfinals at the French Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.