MELBOURNE:Rafael Nadal admitted he was guilty of watching his opponent rather than focusing on his forehand strength before getting out of jail at the Australian Open on Friday.
The Spanish second seed fought off six first set points to seal a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 win over French 28th seed Gilles Simon in two hours 26 minutes.
He was tested early by Simon but proved superior on the pressure points to win through to a fourth round clash against French 23rd seed Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Simon dominated the opening set up to the pivotal ninth game when he was broken back and dropped service again in the 11th for Nadal to seize control.
"Normally I start very hard, but today I really don't know. I started the match without a very good tactic," said the Spaniard.
"I started the match watching my rival, not worried about playing my game and trying to play aggressive with my forehand.
"That's what I have to do, not watch what is going on the other side of the net."
Nadal said it was an important victory in the context of chasing his first Australian Open title.
"Sure, it's an important win for me. In every tournament, you have to overcome difficult moments," he said.
"I had one in the first round (against Serbian Viktor Troicki). Today another time. It's important because you feel the pressure.
"In the first set I knew I was not doing the things I would like to do because I didn't play aggressively and didn't have the control of the point.
"I knew at some point in the match I would have to change. I had to try to start to play my forehand and move Gilles around the court.
"When I did that the match changed a lot."
Nadal has the possibility of claiming the world number one ranking off Roger Federer at this year's Australian Open.
Federer could lose the position he has held with a record 207 consecutive weeks if he fails to reach the semi-finals and Nadal goes on to win the Australian title.
Federer, as defending champion, has plenty of rankings points to defend here while Nadal, a quarter-finalist last year, has relatively few to carry over.
The Swiss champ won three of last year's four Grand Slams for the third time in four years, but Nadal has his measure on the red clay of Roland Garros, winning the last three French Opens.
The major obstacle in Nadal's path to the final appears to be sixth seeded American Andy Roddick, who he could face in the quarter-finals.
Simon squandered six set points after dominating the opening set, failing to handle the pressure as Nadal broke back in the ninth game after losing his service in the second game.
During the sixth game of the opening set Nadal was give a time violation warning while serving.
The Frenchman's forehand, which had been rock solid earlier in the set, broke down and the world number two powered back with two service breaks to take the set on his third set point.
Simon's confidence dived after the setback and he was broken four more times in the final two sets to hand victory to Nadal.
The Spaniard was held up in his march to victory and needed five match points to see him into the next round.