Nadal happy with rollicking start at Melbourne Park

16Jan 2018
The Guardian
Nadal happy with rollicking start at Melbourne Park

A ruthless Rafa Nadal preserved his creaky knees for tougher tests down the road by routing Dominican journeyman Victor Estrella Burgos 6-1 6-1 6-1 to sail into the second round of the Australian Open yesterday.

Playing his first competitive match since pulling out of the ATP Tour Finals with knee trouble in November, the world number one showed no signs of early season rust as he tore through the evening match at Rod Laver Arena in one hour and 34 minutes. 

“Happy for the start, of course,” Nadal, who lost last year’s final in a five-set classic to Roger Federer, told reporters. 

”It’s a positive start with a good result. If I do months without playing an official match, it’s always a little bit more difficult. 

”But I started with positive feelings. That’s the most important thing for me now. Of course, there are things to improve. 

“But the thing that I need to improve, the matches will give me those things, no? Victories are the most important thing now.” 

Victory never appeared in doubt against 37-year-old Estrella Burgos who was thrilled just to win three games against the energetic Spaniard. 

Nadal mowed through the first set in 23 minutes and appeared determined to keep the points short as he charged forward to win 21 of 24 points at the net. 

The 31-year-old raised three match points with a huge serve and completed the rout with another that Estrella Burgos could only send long in return. 

The 2009 champion’s bid for a second Australian Open title and 17th grand slam win will continue with a step up in class against 52nd-ranked Argentine Leonardo Mayer, who gave him a four-set test in the U.S. Open second round on the way to winning the trophy. 

Having warmly embraced Estrella Burgos after sealing the one-sided win, Nadal said he could not afford to underestimate any opponent. 

“I believe that the doubts are good because when you have doubts, it’s because you aren’t too arrogant, because you have respect for your opponent, because you have respect for the game and because you don’t consider yourself unbelievably good,” he said. 

Meanwhile, home hope Nick Kyrgios launched his Australian Open campaign with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 demolition of Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva yesterday to continue his bright start to the year. 

The volatile 17th seed was on his best behaviour, apart from one first-set rant about a heckler in the crowd, letting his racket do the talking as he treated his fans in the Hisense Arena to an impressive opening salvo. 

Kyrgios, one of nine Australian men to start in the main draw, is shouldering his nation’s hopes of a first home men’s champion since 1976 and could not have asked for a better start. 

He wrapped up the opening two sets in 51 minutes and was never seriously troubled until the third set when the 100th ranked Dutra Silva provided stiffer resistance. 

“Obviously with me, I’d like to get on and off the court as quick as possible, save my body for the later rounds,” Kyrgios, who has been plagued by hip injuries during his career and has been having treatment on a knee problem, told reporters. 

Kyrgios was jeered by the home crowd last year when he lost a second-round match from two sets up against Italian Andreas Seppi and he won only two matches in grand slams in 2017. 

After claiming the Brisbane title in the build-up to Melbourne, his first on home soil, there is real optimism that he might be able to mount a serious assault. 

 His best run in Melbourne came in 2015 when he reached the quarter-finals as a 19-year-old but before he can think about bettering that he must focus on Serbia’s Viktor Troicki. 

Troicki came from two sets down to beat Australian wildcard Alex Bolt and will be a far tougher hurdle than Dutra Silva. 

“There’s not many people that come back from two sets to love down and win against an Aussie in Australia,” Kyrgios said. 

“He’s a tough competitor.” 

Kyrgios was joined in the second round by fellow Australians John Millman, who beat Borna Coric in straight sets, and Matthew Ebden who shocked 16th-seeded American John Isner. 

Ebden, 30, began 2017 ranked 695 after knee injuries forced him out of action but he climbed back into the top 100 by the end of the year and is now aiming even higher. 

“I know the level that I can play and maintain now consistently,” he said. “Got to keep things rolling.” REUTERS


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