Melbourne: Rafa Nadal struck a blow for the old establishment, overwhelming Lukas Lacko to become the first man into the Australian Open's last 16 on Friday, before Caroline Wozniacki's reign as world number one survived with a win over Romania's Monica Niculescu.   

With the prime-time evening slot handed to 37th-ranked local teenager Bernard Tomic, Rafa Nadal raised the curtain on an intriguing Rod Laver Arena double-feature with Roger Federer by pushing his Slovakian opponent off stage in less than two hours with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 romp.   

The 2009 champion Nadal came to Melbourne saddled with doubts about his form, fitness and motivation, but has not lost a set this tournament and never appeared in danger against his 119th-ranked opponent under overcast skies on centre court.   

Hustling to chase down every point, it took a low-flying bird swooping across the court to stall the Mallorcan's charge momentarily before he went on to close out the match with a dominant service game.   

Nadal set up a fourth-round clash with either big-serving American John Isner or fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. His great rival Federer looms as a potential semi-final opponent.   

The 10-times grand slam champion was asked hypothetically what he would take from the Swiss maestro given the chance, and answered simply: "We're going to take the serve."   

With Rod Laver Arena occupied by Federer's third-round clash with Croatia's Ivo Karlovic, Wozniacki's battle for credibility continued at Hisense Arena against 31st seed Niculescu.   

With three other players able to snatch her top ranking at Melbourne Park, the 21-year-old Dane signalled we should not give up the prize without an almighty fight as she steamrolled the Romanian 6-2, 6-2 in 76 minutes.   

Delayed Finish   

Wozniacki will play the winner of American Christina McHale and Serb Jelena Jankovic, a former world number one, whose own grand slam ambitions were never fulfilled.   

Victoria Azarenka, one of the three plotting a coup against Wozniacki, kept up the heat with a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 victory over Germany's Mona Barthel.   

The Belarusian powerhouse nearly lost her composure when she ran out of challenges and was unable to appeal a couple of close line calls on match-point.   

She composed herself to close it out on the attempt and after tossing a ball away with disdain, was still fuming with herself in a courtside interview.   

"Playing in the end, (I was) not brave enough to finish the match," said the third seed, who will play Czech world number 46 Iveta Benesova in the fourth round.   

"Had to get a little bit pissed off and kick myself, you know, and finally finished it."   

Eighth seed Agnieszka Radwanska is also through to the last 16 after mowing through Kazak Galina Voskoboeva 6-2, 6-2, the last in a raft of lop-sided contests that have provoked murmurings about the strength of the women's game.   

With the day session given over to the seasoned heavyweights, the evening session opens with two rising talents of the next generation.   

Alexandr Dolgopolov, who lost to Andy Murray in the quarter-finals last year, and much-hyped local hope Tomic clash at Rod Laver Arena, with their unorthodox styles expected to provide compelling viewing if not take them to the ultimate prize.

(Agencies)