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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday January 16, 2022

 
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal hammered past American Marcos Giron in three uncomplicated sets to book his spot in round two at Melbourne.

Photo Source: Gettyu

It has been nearly five months since Rafael Nadal shut down his 2021 season with a foot injury, and since then the Spaniard has dedicated every ounce of his energy to returning to the game to, as he likes to say, give himself more chances to compete at the highest level.

Tennis Express

On Monday in Melbourne, the 20-time Grand Slam champion took another step in the right direction as he blasted past World No.66 Marcos Giron with relative ease on Rod Laver Arena, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, for his 70th career Australian Open main draw win.

"I played some good tennis out there today, yeah," Nadal said. "I can't complain much. I did things well, probably a lot of things better than last week. I have to keep going."

The 35-year-old Spaniard is no stranger to yawners on the biggest stages of the sport – he has now won in straight sets 218 times at the Grand Slams – but Monday’s win is special in that it represents his first victory at the majors since he was knocked out of Roland-Garros by Novak Djokovic in Paris in five blistering sets last spring. Since that an injury cloud has swirled around the Spaniard. Nadal has hardly played at any level and when he has he typically has cautioned the media not to expect too much.


He echoed similar sentiments after Monday's win, telling reporters that he’s just hoping to find some semblance of his top level, and adding that this most recent comeback is different than the others, because of his age and the fact that he has not been able to play much tennis during the pandemic.

"Of course, when you are getting a little bit older, all the comebacks are tougher," he said. "This have been especially, well, difficult because is not only a comeback from an injury, it's a comeback trying to be back on the tour after almost two years playing not many events with the virus."

The comeback appears to be right on schedule, and a shellshocked Giron can attest to that. The American watched 34 of Nadal’s winners fly by as he tried to adapt to facing the lethal game of the Spaniard. A tenacious, feisty character, Giron held his own at times in the contest, but the unbridled power of Nadal proved too tough to match over the course of the one hour and 48-minute encounter.

The message? Nadal may indeed be working himself into form, but he’s not as far off as he may lead you to believe. In a tournament without Djokovic in the top of the draw, this may just be a winnable endeavor for the King of Clay.

Most important, the foot appears to be behaving quite nicely. Observers could see that last week as he claimed his 89th title in a warmup event at Melbourne, defeating American Maxime Cressy in the final.

Today it was more of the same. He may be seeded sixth. He may be a wounded warrior that is still a smidge from his best, and he may lack some of the confidence that comes from facing top players and beating them, but Rafael Nadal is very much on the up and a contender for this title at the moment.

If he can improve his form little by little with each passing round, he may just find a way to win it.

 

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