MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal made it abundantly clear how much he missed the last Australian Open with the manner of his third-round demolition of Gael Monfils.
Top-seeded Nadal trounced No. 25-seeded Monfils 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours to finish off Saturday's program on the Rod Laver Arena, then told the crowd it was "very emotional to have the chance to play that well here in Australia after missing last year."
He skipped it in 2013 during a seven-month layoff for illness and injuries, depriving him a chance to pick up two full sets of the Grand Slam titles.
Nadal returned to win the French and U.S. Open crowns among his 10 titles last season and regained the year-end No. 1-ranking. The Australian Open is the only major Nadal has not won at least twice, with his sole triumph at Melbourne Park in 2009. The Spaniard lost an epic five-set final to Novak Djokovic two years ago.
The 27-year-old broke Monfils' serve in the first game and then fended off three break points before holding in the next. He conceded just one point on serve in the second set and, apart from a slight stumble that caused him to hobble around momentarily, he didn't have any trouble advancing. Nadal next plays No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan, who ended the U.S. run in the men's draw with a comfortable win over Donald Young.
"Very happy the way that I played against a very tough opponent like Gael," Nadal said, giving himself high marks for the performance. "So that makes the level that I played tonight better because it was against a tough opponent.
"That makes me feel confident, but I am in fourth round. That's all."
There were other lopsided matches on the Rod Laver Arena, with two-time women's defending champion Victoria Azarenka routing Yvonne Muesburger 6-1, 6-1 to set up an Australian Open rematch with Sloane Stephens.
Third-seeded Maria Sharapova opened the day session with a straight-sets win over No. 25 Alize Cornet and Roger Federer dispatched Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in his return to the center court after a one-match hiatus on the secondary court at Melbourne Park.
Federer is one of two four-time Australian Open champions in the men's draw. The other, three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic will play his fourth-round match on Sunday, against No. 15 Fabio Fognini. That match follows five-time Australian champion Serena Williams' match against Ana Ivanovic in the women's fourth round.