NADAL EASES PAST AUSSIE BATTLER

Daily Mercury - - SPORT - – Jay Clark

TEN­NIS: For Rafael Nadal, some rust is in­evitable. The cham­pion Spa­niard made a suc­cess­ful re­turn from his four-month in­jury lay­off yes­ter­day hold­ing off Aus­tralian James Duck­worth in three sets.

But the No. 2 seed was made to fight for the win and even stum­bled early in the sec­ond set and then again late in the third, be­fore clinch­ing a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 vic­tory.

It was a brave ef­fort from Duck­worth who at­tacked Nadal at the net and ral­lied late to pinch a break just as the vet­eran pre­pared to serve out the match. But 16 un­forced er­rors in the first set cost Duck­worth and his serve fal­tered at a cru­cial time mid­way through the sec­ond set.

After an­kle surgery and a thigh prob­lem in Bris­bane last week, Nadal, 32, ad­mit­ted it would prob­a­bly take time to work back into top form this Aus­tralian Open.

“Not easy to come back after a lot of months (out of) com­pe­ti­tion and es­pe­cially al­ways against a player play­ing su­per ag­gres­sive,” Nadal said.

“Ev­ery shot he (Duck­worth) went on the court with de­ter­mi­na­tion to not hit balls from the base­line, so it was dif­fi­cult to be on rhythm.

“Any­way, I’m very, very happy to be through, (be­cause) it is al­ways very dif­fi­cult to start back after in­juries, I know it very well.”

Aus­tralian 27th seed Alex de Min­aur also eased through in straight sets, de­feat­ing Por­tu­gal’s world No. 103 Pe­dro Sousa, 6-4 7-5 6-4 to set up a clash against ei­ther Mirza Ba­sic or Henri Laak­so­nen.

Photo: DAVID CROSLING

GO­ING THROUGH: Rafael Nadal re­acts after win­ning a point against James Duck­worth.

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