NADAL EASES PAST AUSSIE BATTLER
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.
GOING THROUGH: Rafael Nadal reacts after winning a point against James Duckworth.