Sluggish start, then fit-again Nadal dominates in style
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