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An ailing Rafa Nadal dug deep into his vast reservoir of grit to stave off American qualifier Tim Smyczek and stagger into the third round of the Australian Open on a day of great escapes.

An ailing Rafa Nadal dug deep into his vast reservoir of grit to stave off American qualifier Tim Smyczek and stagger into the third round of the Australian Open on a day of great escapes.

Gushing sweat and stooping woozily between points, the sickly Spaniard dragged his cramping body into a fifth set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, breaking the 112th-ranked American in the 11th game before closing out a 6-2 3-6 6-7 (2) 6-3 7-5 win in four gruelling hours and 12 minutes.

Nadal slumped to his knees on the blue hard court having narrowly averted a repeat of his Melbourne Park jinx.

The Spaniard admitted he thought about pulling out of his match after coming close to throwing up on court as he failed to serve out the third set at 5-4.

But despite losing that set in a tie-break, he dug deep into his reserves of skill and stamina to win the next and then eventually break Smyczek's serve in the decider to lead 6-5.

There was still time for more drama as a spectator shouted out just as the left-hander was serving at 30-0, with the resulting fault looking set to stand until Smyczek told the umpire to replay the point, and Nadal eventually secured a gutsy 6-2 3-6 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 7-5 win in four hours and 12 minutes.

"I want to congratulate Tim because he was a real gentleman what he did in the last game," said Nadal, who applauded his opponent off the court. "It was amazing. Not a lot of people would do something like this at 6-5 in the fifth. I think he played a great match."

Centre court was the backdrop for nerve-shredding tests for some of the coolest heads in the business and with the temperature rising above 32 degrees Celsius, Maria Sharapova showed ice in her veins. She mounted a brilliant counter-attack to fend off fellow Russian Alexandra Panova, a 150th-ranked qualifier playing the match of her life.

Down two breaks of serves at 4-1 in the deciding set, Sharapova clawed back to 5-4 and clobbered a string of forehand winners to save two match-points before marching on to a defiant 6-1 4-6 7-5 victory.

Men's second seed Roger Federer was also forced to scrap in the following match on centre court, after being thrown by a phantom pain on the little finger of his racquet hand during his 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over 48th-ranked Italian Simone Bolelli.

Stunned in the first set by a barrage of clean hitting, the Swiss master growled at a prying television camera as medical staff examined his finger during the change of ends.

However, he gritted his teeth and merely got on with the job, closing out the match with a rush to the net.

"It felt like a bee stung me," the 33-year-old said of his troubled finger. "I was like, 'this can't be possible'. I'd never had this pain before... Thankfully it wasn't so bad at the end."

outing

Andy Murray's second outing on the Margaret Court Arena was far more serene as the sixth seed trounced Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-3 6-2 to retreat to the cool of the shade after 102 impressive minutes.

The Scot's win extended his unbeaten record against Australians to 10-0, deflating the crowd's joy slightly after 10 locals had made it past the first round across both the men's and women's draws.

"I think I moved pretty well today ... If you want to win these tournaments, you need to defend well," said Murray, who next faces Portugal's Joao Sousa before a potential showdown with young gun Grigor Dimitrov, who wobbled but won 6-3 6-7(10) 6-3 6-3 against Lukas Lacko.

Canadian sensation Eugenie Bouchard, a semi-finalist on her debut last year, continued her love affair with the blue hard courts, despatching Kiki Bertens 6-0 6-3 in 54 minutes.


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