Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button Follow Me on Pinterest
NewsVideosLive ScoresTV ListingsTournamentsRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastMagazine

By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, February 9, 2021


Rafael Nadal showed no signs of stress from a stiff back flying through a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win into the Australian Open second round for the 15th time in 16 AO appearances.

Photo credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty

Dashing into the doubles alley, Rafael Nadal ran down a crackling return and rifled a running forehand bolt down the line.

The audacious strike left a dazed Laslo Djere waving his arms in disbelief.

Kyrgios: This Is Why Federer Is GOAT

A stiff back knocked Nadal out of the ATP Cup and cast a cloud of concern over his health for the season’s first Grand Slam.

An energized Nadal showed fierce fighting form flying through a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win into the Australian Open second round.

It is Nadal’s 15th opening-round win in 16 Melbourne appearances and should put the second-seeded Spaniard’s supporters at ease over the state of his cranky back, which had limited his serving in recent practice sessions.

"Here I am to try my best as always," Nadal said afterward. "That’s it. I can’t say much more. Let’s go day by day. Today,  I was able to find a way to be through so that gives me one more chance for tomorrow.

"Of course it was not ideal preparation for me but I still alive no? That’s the main thing. I am enjoying again to be here in this amazing country. Happy to be here playing in Australia one more time and just want to be here as long as possible."

Launching his quest for a record-extending 21st Grand Slam championship, Nadal moved fluidly and did not show signs of pain and reduced the stress levels by breaking early in each set. Nadal served 67 percent, permitted just eight points on first serve and fought off four of five break points he faced.

In many ways, this was the ideal prescription for an unsettling two weeks as Nadal was efficient and explosive advancing in one hour, 52 minutes. Gain without pain was precisely what Nadal needed to begin the tournament though he cautioned his back "was not great" during the match.

“My back is not perfect, as I said a couple of days ago," Nadal told the media afterward. "Every day that I'm able to go through, probably there are more chances to get better. That's the thing now.

"There is always a chance to improve, and that's why I'm here playing and fighting to try to get better and then give myself a chance. Today it's not great. I needed to change a little bit the motion of my serve. That's what I tried to survive that condition today. Tomorrow a day off. After tomorrow, another match. I need to go day-to-day and just try to stay positive. Of course every day that I am trying to stay here longer is a day with a chance to get better finally, so that's what I am trying. Trying to do all the things possible to be ready for compete, for what I came here."

The reigning Roland Garros champion surged out to a 3-0 lead he extended to 5-1 before Djere could really respond.

Embed from Getty Images

Serving for the set in the seventh game, Nadal delivered a clunker of a game. Nudging a backhand slice wide to face triple break point, Nadal sailed a forehand to gift the break.

The Serbian smacked a forehand down the line confirming the break at 15 for 3-5.

Tested in a tricky love-30 game when serving for the set again, Nadal drew back even then pulled out the surprise serve-and-volley. Jamming Djere with a body serve, the 2016 Olympic doubles gold medalist knocked off a high volley for set point. Hammering a forehand, Nadal took a one-set lead in 36 minutes.

The stiff back didn’t diminish Nadal’s ferocity hurling himself into his forehand. A series of twisting topspin forehands helped Nadal carve out the first break of the second set for a 2-1 lead.

The second seed’s tangerine top was soaked with sweat as he served for a two set lead. Djere drove deep returns earning three break points, but Nadal, aided by a low line-skidding shot, denied all three.

Curling his fifth ace down the T brought Nadal set point and when Djere lined a return long, the 2009 champion had a two lead after one hour, 25 minutes.

Tennis Express

Opportunity lost pained a dejected Djere who double faulted away the opening game of the third set at 15.

Breaking in his opponent’s opening service game in two of the three sets put Nadal at ease as he powered through eight of the first nine points for a 2-0 lead.

The familiar fast first step Nadal is known for was evident in the fifth game. Bursting up quickly to a drop shot, a sprinting Nadal nudged a backhand by Djere. The Serbian spit up a pair of forehand errors as Nadal forged his fifth break for 4-1.

Explosiveness on the run is a Nadal trademark and a quality he showed several times today.

Sprinting to his left, Nadal ran down a return and ripped an electric forehand down the line bringing fans to their feet and Djere to his knees as Nadal held for 5-1. Djere double faulted to end it in one hour, 52 minutes.

Afterward, Nadal hit the player gym for some stretching and rehab ahead of his second-round meeting with a qualifier, either Viktor Troicki or Michael Mmoh. 


Latest News