Top seed Rafael Nadal routed fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, losing just seven games, while Nick Kyrgios prevailed in a five-set thriller against Karen Khachanov on Saturday to set up a blockbuster fourth-round match.
The 33-year-old world No 1 was in superb form to charge past the 27th seed 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in bright sunshine on Rod Laver Arena and make the round of 16 at Melbourne Park for the 13th time.
Kyrgios, the Australian showman came through a tense battle with the Russian 16th seed after 4hrs 26 mins in front of passionate home support on Melbourne Arena to win 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (10/8).
Fifth seed Dominic Thiem dropped a set but looked steady to beat 29th seed Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 and set up a mouth-watering clash with 10th seed Gael Monfils in the fourth round. Frenchman Monfils ended the run of qualifier Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3.
World number four Daniil Medvedev eased past Alexei Popyrin in straight sets to set up a last-16 clash with former champion Stan Wawrinka. The tall Russian had few problems dispatching the unseeded Australian 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Seventh seed Alexander Zverev reached the second week in Melbourne for the second straight year as he beat veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. The German will have a tough test in the next round against Andrey Rublev.
The 17th seeded Russian continued his unbeaten run in 2020, that has seen him lift two titles already, to down 11th seed David Goffin 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4). The Belgian led by a set and then saved four match points in the tiebreak but could not force a decider.
Later, Stan Wawrinka advanced to the fourth round after 19th seed John Isner withdrew from their match. The 15th seeded Swiss was leading 6-4, 4-1 when the American retired.
Ruthless Rafa Nadal
“My best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt,” said Nadal. “I’m improving every day, so super-happy.
“I did well on my serve and hit good forehands down the line, which is a key shot for me.”
Nadal joined defending champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the fourth round with a potential showdown next with Nick Kyrgios.
The Australian, who disparagingly labelled Nadal “super salty” last year, and mimicked his serving routine during his second-round clash, meets Russian Karen Khachanov later.
Nadal, a finalist last year when he crashed to Novak Djokovic in straight sets, was far from clinical in his previous match against Federico Delbonis, winning only three out of 20 break points.
But his conversion rate against his Davis Cup teammate was much better, putting away five from 10 in a dominant display.
He broke Carreno Busta on his first service game to immediately take charge, dictating the rallies and forcing his opponent around the court.
Carreno Busta became a spectator as Nadal raced through the set in 29 minutes and he then broke again early in the second set to inflict more pain.
Nadal’s relentless consistency was too much for the 28-year-old, who had no answers to the constant pressure and pinpoint service returns that were a trademark in the easy win.
Kyrgios survives thriller
Kyrgios had admitted he was on the verge of going “to a very dark place” in his second-round clash against Gilles Simon before refocusing.
And he mostly held it together against Khachanov, before a blow up at the umpire in set four over a time violation.
He had a match-point chance in each of the third and fourth sets but the Russian held firm to ensure Kyrgios played the longest match of his career.
The Kyrgios serve was on fire early on, sending down four aces in the first two sets.
He made the break in game six, with Khachanov firing wide after a deft drop shot from the Australian. But Kyrgios was grimacing and at 5-2 took a medical timeout for an upper left leg niggle.
He returned to break again and empathically take the set.
The second set went with serve up to a tiebreaker, with some electrifying tennis from both men. Kyrgios won it and Khachanov slammed his racquet in frustration.
The Australian worked three break points in game five of the third set and while Khachanov managed to save two, he sent down a double fault to hand Kyrgios a crucial 3-2 advantage.
But he lost focus and was quickly broken and it went to another tiebreaker.
Kyrgios saved two break points at 3-3 in the fourth set then lost control after being given a time violation, hurling his racquet and confronting the umpire, calling him “stupid”.
His rant continued as he received attention for a nasty cut on his knuckle at the changeover after a spectacular airborne half-volley.
That set also went to a tiebreak where Khachanov prevailed, sending it to a fifth set.
There was nothing between them as they slammed balls at each other until the Australian finally won in the super tiebreaker, falling to the ground exhausted.
Nick Kyrgios (AUS x23) bt Karen Khachanov (RUS x16) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (10/8)
Alexander Zverev (GER x7) bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 6-4
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x4) bt Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP x27) 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
Gael Monfils (FRA x10) bt Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3
Dominic Thiem (AUT x5) bt Taylor Fritz (USA x29) 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI x15) bt John Isner (USA x19) 6-4, 4-1 ret
Andrey Rublev (RUS x17) bt David Goffin (BEL x11) 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
With AFP Inputs