20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal won what was his first singles match since August on Thursday at the Melbourne Summer Set. The Spaniard eased past Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis in the first set before surviving a tight second one to clinch the match 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals. As a result of a left foot injury, the ‘King of Clay’ had not played a singles match since the Citi Open last August. It is also to be noted that the 35-year-old returned to action in doubles on Wednesday, partnering Jaume Munar to victory.
“Super happy to be back in competition. It’s difficult to imagine a better place than here [at] the beginning of the season in Australia,” Nadal said. “It’s only the first match after a while. Honestly, I have been going through some difficult, challenging moments the past year-and-a-half, but in general terms I am super happy to be back in competition. Of course it’s important to start with a victory, [which] gives me the chance to play another time tomorrow and that’s the main thing at this moment because I didn’t play for such a long time.”
Nadal looked in full control during the first set, as he claimed it without much fuss. However, the Spaniard faced some trouble in the second set, letting slip a break advantage. But, he made up for it soon by winning the match after one hour and 32 minutes. He had broken at love to see out the match and struck a final forehand winner.
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In his first ATP Head2Head clash against Berankis, the top seed won 78 per cent of his first-serve points and claimed 48 per cent of his return points. Next up for Nadal is Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, who knocked out Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in one hour and 57 minutes. However, post this victory, Nadal pulled out of his next doubles match against Andrey Golubev and Franko Skugor due to fatigue.
Besides, Rafael Nadal voiced his opinion about the controversy surrounding one of his arch-rivals Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. The Serbian’s title defence has landed in jeopardy as his visa to enter Australia was revoked upon his arrival in Melbourne, amid a backlash over a vaccine exemption.
“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem,” Nadal said, following victory at the warm-up tournament in Melbourne. “He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.
“Of course I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way, I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”