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The quest for 21st Grand Slam: Nadal begins campaign with straight sets win

Rafael Nadal will meet German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in the second round of the Australian Open

Rafael Nadal, Open d'Australie 2022 Rafael Nadal, Open d’Australie 2022 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Australian Open 2022 | Draws| Schedule

Former world No 1 Rafael Nadal began his quest for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title with a straight sets win over American Marcos Giron on Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

Nadal defeated 28-year-old Giron 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 49 minutes in the third match of Monday’s day session.

Nadal outplayed his American opponent in nearly every department on Monday. The Spaniard compiled a +8 differential when it came to winners/ unforced errors (34 winners to 26 unforced errors) as compared to a -13 differential for Giron (10 winners to 23 unforced errors).

The 35-year-old also won 18 of 25 points at the net and broke his opponent five times on nine break point opportunities. Nadal’s serve was also on song on Monday – hitting 71 per cent of his first serves and winning 81 per cent of those points and saving both the break points he faced on his own serve.

By the end of the match, Nadal had won 91 points to 55 points for the American, who is ranked 66th in the world.

  • Seeds who lost on Monday at the Australian Open (1st round): Norrie (12), Harris (30)

  • Seeds who won on Monday at the Australian Open (1st round): Zverev (3), Nadal (6), Berrettini (7), Hurkacz (10), Shapovalov (14), Garin (16), Monfils (17), Karatsev( (18)Carreño Busta (19), Opelka (23), Sonego (25), Khachanov (28), Alcaraz (31)
  • This marks the first time ever that Nadal is in a Grand Slam draw without rivals Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. With Djokovic losing his legal fight to remain in Australia and leaving Melbourne on Sunday night, and Federer still on the sidelines after a third surgery on his right knee after Wimbledon, the Australian Open presents the Spaniard a unique opportunity to break the three-way tie for the most Grand Slam titles in men’s tennis history.

    Speaking after his first round win, Nadal said he missed having Djokovic in the Melbourne draw this time around and said he had a good relationship with the Serb.

    “I always had a big respect and a very good relationship with my rivals. In my opinion, I believe the life is much better when you have a good relationship with everybody, especially in the locker room. It was like this during all my tennis career, with some few casual exceptions for some moments. That’s my philosophy. It’s better to have a good relationship with everybody because then you are happier. With Novak, haven’t been an exception.

    We always had a great relationship. Honestly I wish him all the best. I think the situation have been a mess. He’s not the only one that did probably the wrong things in that case. Of course, there are more (people) responsible on all this terrible situation that we faced for the last two weeks. But of course he is one of the (persons) responsible, too. So in a personal level, yes, I would like to see him playing here. If is fair or not that he’s playing here is another discussion that I don’t want to talk anymore about that.”

    The feet have been worst than ever for the last year and a half

    Rafael Nadal

    Nadal shut down his 2021 season after the Citi Open in August due to a foot injury. He only returned at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi in mid-December but tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning to Spain.

    The quarantine interrupted his pre-season training plans but the Spaniard returned to claim his 89th career singles title at the Melbourne Summer Set in the first week of the new season.

    “The knees have been better than ever after that period of time. But the feet have been worst than ever for the last year and a half. I always had the problem on the foot during all my tennis career that sometimes especially on the cold conditions I suffered a lot. But I was able to play all my career with not many limitations in terms of competing in the tournaments, no? After that period of time (the lockdown), everything changed and I was not able to practice at all or play the proper way during the last two years. So hopefully I will have the chance to do it more often.”

    Nadal’s straight sets win on Monday kept alive his streak of winning first round at Majors in straight sets dating back to the French Open in 2016. Up next for the Spaniard is German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, who defeated Adelaide champion Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a little over two hours.

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