MELBOURNE, Australia – Rafael Nadal was in the locker room, keeping inexperienced wild card Bernard Tomic waiting.
It was Saturday night and Melbourne Park had attracted a record crowd for the Australian Open — 77,121 across day and night sessions. The 18-year-old Tomic, who has been hyped as the next big-thing for Australian tennis, was the only player from Down Under left in the tournament.
As the minutes ticked away, Tomic stood in the corridor with his racket bag on his back, sweatshirt zipped up to his neck, hopping from foot to foot.
Finally, Nadal emerged, having started the mind games long before any balls were hit in warmups.
Needless to say, the Rafa Slam is still on track. Nadal extended his Grand Slam streak to 24 consecutive matches with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 win in the third round.
The muscular Spaniard was sweating profusely on court, and said he still had the lingering effects of an illness that slowed him down at the start of the year. He said he's feeling more tired and sweating more than usual when he's playing.
"I was perfect when I started the season. I was playing perfect and I was feeling perfect physically," he said. "In Doha, I had that problem. I wasn't feel very well. Have fever and these things.
"Seems like after that my body is still not perfect."
Tomic's unusual game might have contributed to the soaked shirt. Tomic was mixing up the pace and angles of his shots, making Nadal move.
And there were some concerning moments for Nadal. Tomic started brazenly, holding to open the match and then having breakpoint on Nadal's serve. Nadal saved and dominated the rest of the set. In the second set, Tomic broke Nadal's serve twice to lead 4-0. He only won one more game in the set, for a 5-4 lead, but again Nadal was able to win the points when it counted.
"He's the kind of player who can make you play bad," Nadal said. "I have to play a bit better if I want to get to the quarterfinals."
Like just about every one of his vanquished opponents in the three most recent slams, Tomic was amazed when he got a first-hand look at Nadal's relentless energy and consistency.
"I thought it was over at 4-love and that's when he came back," Tomic said. "You can't afford to lose concentration. Physically-wise, he is a machine, he wears you down."
The last two Australians went out in consecutive night matches on Rod Laver Arena. French Open finalist Sam Stosur was expected to go further, her 7-6 (5), 6-3 loss to No. 25 Petra Kvitova coming as an upset.
Tomic's defeat was anticipated. It hasn't been a good tournament for Australia, which hasn't produced a homegrown winner of the national championship in more than 30 years.
In fact, it hasn't been a good tournament for any of the countries that host the four majors.
John Isner went out in a five-set loss to No. 15 Marin Cilic late Saturday, leaving Andy Roddick as the only American in the tournament.
"I didn't want to go out in the round of 32 — it stinks," Isner said. "It's going to be tough to sleep tonight."
Roddick plays 19th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the fourth round on Sunday night.
There's no French players left in the men's or women's draws after Alize Cornet's loss to Kim Clijsters. And there's only one Brit — 2010 runner-up Andy Murray beat Guillermo Garcia Lopez comfortably Saturday and has only conceded 17 games en route to the round of 16.
China has more players in the fourth round, with No. 9 Li Na playing No. 8 Victoria Azarenka on Sunday and Peng Shuai advancing Saturday. And there's a Canadian in the fourth round of a major for the first time in a dozen years — big serving 20-year-old qualifier Milos Raonic upset No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
"I can't say I would be shocked if I wasn't here," Raonic said. "But I'm not really shocked I am here."
Other men advancing included two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling, seeded fourth, No. 7 David Ferrer and No. 11 Jurgen Melzer.
Melzer was leading 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1, 4-3 when third-round rival and 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdaatis retired due to injured finger. Another former finalist, 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, also lost.
On the women's side, U.S. Open champion Clijsters beat Cornet 7-6 (3), 6-3, spoiling the Frenchwoman's 21st birthday, and moving a step closer to back-to-back majors.
Vera Zvonareva is still in contention for a third consecutive Grand Slam final after a 6-3, 7-6 (9) win over Lucie Safarova. She's 0-2 in major finals so far.
No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska advanced, as did No. 22 Flavia Pennetta, who ousted No. 10 Shahar Peer.
There was a heated exchange in the men's doubles match, forcing match officials to intervene when Spanish speakers Feliciano Lopez and Juan Monaco accused India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi of taunting them by yelling "vamos." The Indian pair 7-6 (2), 6-4 and couldn't see the problem, saying Spaniards didn't have a franchise on the word and they'd probably use it the next match.
Tournament officials were investigating.
Defending champion Roger Federer will continue his quest for a fifth Australian Open title in a fourth-round match against Tommy Robredo on Sunday, when 2008 winner Novak Djokovic takes on Nicolas Almagro of Spain.
Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki goes against Anastasija Sevastova in a women's fourth-round match and 2008 champion Maria Sharapova faces Andrea Petkovic, who only needed to play seven points against Venus Williams in the third round before the American retired with an injured hip.
Cilic will have a day to recover from his 4-hour, 33-minute 4-6, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 9-7 win over No. 20 Isner before he plays Nadal.
It was the first five-set match Isner had played since his epic encounter against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon last year that finished 70-68 in the fifth and was the longest tennis match in history measured by games and elapsed time.
"I was confident that I was going to pull it through all along in that fifth set — I just thought I was going to win it," said Isner, ruing the missed chance to play Nadal. "It' disappointing. It's why you play this game — to get a shot at a guy like that in a Grand Slam."