Melbourne: While other champions crumbled around him, Spain's Rafael Nadal powered through to round four of the Australian Open on Saturday, beating fellow countryman, Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
On one of the hottest days of the tournament so far, the direct heat and humidity created a challenge for both players on Rod Laver Arena.
However, Nadal's perfectly placed shots and speed around the court quickly placed him ahead of current World No. 30 Carreno Busta.
"It was my best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt. The big difference between today and the previous days," Nadal told Xinhua after the match.
"I have been serving well, starting to create damage with the forehand. Hitting serves on one shot."
At his last round match, Nadal endeared himself once more to the crowd when he rushed to check on a ball girl he had accidentally hit with a wayward shot.
The girl appeared unhurt but the Spaniard nonetheless exhibited genuine concern, sparking jealousy when he gave the girl a conciliatory kiss on the side of the head.
Meanwhile, also moving through on day five of competition was Austrian Dominic Thiem who beat American, Taylor Fritz, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, (5-7), 6-4, while French player Gael Monfils defeated Latvian, Ernests Gulbis. 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3.
Monfils and Thiem will play each other in the next round on Monday, while Nadal will face either Australia's Nick Kyrgios or Karen Khachanov of Russia.
"Both players are great players. Nick is excited to play here at home," Nadal said.
"Karen is a player with great potential. I'll be watching and hoping for a good tennis match."