Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Australian Open Day 1: Nadal eases injury doubts with first-round win, Kyrgios on his best behaviour

World No 1 Nadal breezes past Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 while home hope Kyrgios demolishes Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-1, 6-2, 6-4

Rafael Nadal, left, and Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic embrace after the former won their Australian Open first-round match. Thomas Peter / Reuters
Rafael Nadal, left, and Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic embrace after the former won their Australian Open first-round match. Thomas Peter / Reuters

Rafael Nadal says he has no doubts over a knee injury as he destroyed his opening round opponent at the Australian Open on Monday.

The world No1, a beaten finalist to Roger Federer in Melbourne last year, clinically took apart Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in 94 minutes in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.

The Spaniard will play Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the second round.

Nadal, who is gunning for a 17th major title, was hampered by a knee injury at the tail-end of the 2017 season.

It forced him to skip the lead-up Brisbane International this month, and he only had a one-match workout at the exhibition Kooyong Classic in Melbourne ahead of the open.

But he said his troublesome right knee felt absolutely fine during his rout of Estrella Burgos.

"It's feeling good," Nadal said. "If I did not feel myself ready I would not be here.

"I am happy to be here and happy to be on court again.

"I always have doubts, but at the same time I have confidence that I was ready to start the tournament and that was the case."

Nadal, who wore no protective strapping on his knee, left nothing to chance with eight service breaks and 28 winners in a complete first-up performance.

It took the 31-year-old Spaniard's Australian Open record to 52-11 as he chases his second Australian title after beating Federer in the 2009 final.

"It's a positive start with a good result. If I do months without playing official match it's always a little bit more difficult," he said.

"But I started with positive feelings. That's most important thing for me now.

"Of course, there are things to improve. But the thing that I need to improve, the matches will give me those things. Victories are the most important thing now."


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Nadal needs to reach the quarter-finals to be certain of retaining his world No 1 ranking after the Australian Open, with Federer breathing down his neck.

The top seed only conceded three games in the match and had few problems with Estrella Burgos, who has a modest 6-15 record at grand slams.

Nadal is at his first major tournament in years without his uncle Toni, who coached him from childhood until after his US Open win last year.

Toni Nadal is now coaching at the Rafael Nadal Academy, with his nephew under the tutelage of Carlos Moya.

"Toni was not always in the [player's] box. It's true that in the grand slams he was here all the time," Nadal said.

"I cannot think about that all day. I just have to move forward, believe in the team I have. I feel lucky I have Carlos today in my box, and the rest of the team that is a huge support.

"Toni is the most important person in my career," he added.

Home hope Nick Kyrgios launched his Australian Open campaign with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva on Monday to continue his bright start to the year.

The volatile 17th seed was on his best behaviour, apart from one first-set rant about a heckler in the crowd, letting his racket do the talking as he treated his fans in the Hisense Arena to an impressive opening salvo.

Kyrgios, one of nine Australian men to start in the main draw, is shouldering his nation's hopes of a first home men's champion since 1976 and could not have asked for a better start.

He wrapped up the opening two sets in 51 minutes and was never seriously troubled until the third set when the 100th ranked Dutra Silva provided stiffer resistance.

"Obviously with me, I'd like to get on and off the court as quick as possible, save my body for the later rounds," Kyrgios, who has been plagued by hip injuries during his career and has been having treatment on a knee problem, told reporters.

Kyrgios was jeered by the home crowd last year when he lost a second-round match from two sets up against Italian Andreas Seppi and he won only two matches in grand slams in 2017.

After claiming the Brisbane title in the build-up to Melbourne, his first on home soil, there is real optimism that he might be able to mount a serious assault.

His best run in Melbourne came in 2015 when he reached the quarter-finals as a 19 year old but before he can think about bettering that he must focus on Serbia's Viktor Troicki.

Troicki came from two sets down to beat Australian wild card Alex Bolt and will be a far tougher hurdle than Dutra Silva.


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Nick Kyrgios 'relaxed' ahead of bid to win his first grand slam at the Australian Open


"There's not many people that come back from two sets to love down and win against an Aussie in Australia," Kyrgios said. "He's a tough competitor."

Kyrgios was joined in the second round by fellow Australians John Millman, who beat Borna Coric in straight sets, and Matthew Ebden who shocked 16th-seeded American John Isner.

Ebden, 30, began 2017 ranked 695 after knee injuries forced him out of action but he climbed back into the top 100 by the end of the year and is now aiming even higher.

"I know the level that I can play and maintain now consistently," he said. "Got to keep things rolling."

Updated: January 15, 2018 04:54 PM



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