Slug­gish start, then fit-again Nadal dom­i­nates in style

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

BRIS­BANE, Aus­tralia: Rafael Nadal beat Alexandr Dol­go­polov 6-3, 6-3 in the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional first round yes­ter­day to make a suc­cess­ful re­turn to ac­tion fol­low­ing two-and-ahalf months out due to in­jury.

The Span­ish for­mer world No 1, seeded fifth, made a slug­gish start and fell 3-1 down in the first set against his Ukrainian op­po­nent. But Nadal, 30, won four suc­ces­sive games to clinch the open­ing set and the 14-time Grand Slam win­ner broke twice in the sec­ond to see off 2012 Bris­bane fi­nal­ist Dol­go­polov in one hour 15 min­utes. He will next play Ger­many’s Mis­cha Zverev. In the women’s draw, Span­ish fourth seed Gar­bine Mugu­ruza saved a match point be­fore beat­ing 19-year-old Rus­sian Daria Kasatk­ina 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(7) to reach the last eight.

There she will face Des­ta­nee Ai­ava or twice Grand Slam cham­pion Svet­lana Kuznetsova.

Aus­tralian 16-year-old Ai­ava up­set Amer­i­can Bethanie Mat­tekSands 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to be­come the first player born after the year 2000 to win a WTA main draw match.

World No6 Karolina Pliskova crushed Amer­i­can qual­i­fier Asia Muham­mad 6-1, 6-4, to set up a quar­ter-fi­nal meet­ing with eighth seed Roberta Vinci or Ja­pan’s Misaki Doi.

Mean­while in Perth, Aus­tralia lost 2-1 to the Czech Repub­lic yes­ter­day as chances for the hold­ers to reach a sec­ond straight Hop­man Cup fi­nal ended.

With Daria Gavrilova suf­fer­ing her sec­ond sin­gles de­feat as she went down to Czech late en­try Lu­cie Hradreka 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, the sit­u­a­tion looked grim de­spite Nick Kyr­gios ear­lier beat­ing Adam Pavlasek 7-5, 6-4.

The hosts made a last stand in the hy­brid FAST4 dou­bles which is be­ing tri­alled at the eight-na­tion mixed teams com­pe­ti­tion. But the Czechs ended with a 2-1 vic­tory through a 3-4, 4-3, 4-2 come­back in the de­cid­ing mixed.

Kyr­gios was slightly both­ered in his sin­gles by an ex­ist­ing left knee prob­lem.

“It has ac­tu­ally been trou­bling me for the past cou­ple of weeks,” he said.

“Ob­vi­ously the first match back a cou­ple of weeks ago was tough and I am just get­ting used to it again.

But hope­fully it gets warm soon and it will ease off.”

The Aus­tralian point man ranked 13th was, how­ever, never in dan­ger of los­ing the tie against Pavlasek.

“The matches are usu­ally on my rac­quet, since I’m the one play­ing ag­gres­sively. But he served well, I could not read his serve,” he said.

Rus­sia-born Aus­tralian Gavrilova came from a break down in the third set against Hradreka but then dropped her own serve again on the way to her sin­gles loss.

She still maged to save a match point with a sec­ond-serve ace though.

Hradreka ad­mit­ted she just scraped.

“It was a very tough match, I had a lot of mis­takes in the first set. But I con­cen­trated on my game and on my serve.”

Aus­tralia can no longer reach the fi­nal be­cause six-time cham­pi­ons United States beat Spain ear­lier yes­ter­day to re­main un­de­feated. – Reuters/dpa

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