Five months after playing his last official match, in the third round of the Washington 500 against Lloyd Harris, Rafa Nadal returned to compete with individual ATP points at stake at the Melbourne 250, a tournament that comes close to the hair, because it is played at the Rod Laver Arena, where it will play its matches at the ever-closer Australian Open (January 17-30). The Spaniard, who had played a couple of exhibition matches in Abu Dhabi in mid-December, in which he lost against Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov and contracted COVID, He beat Ricardas Berankis, a 31-year-old Lithuanian and 104th in the world, 6-2, 7-5 this Thursday.
The number six and first seed of this event in which he is also in the doubles draw with Jaume Munar (they play later against Golubev and Skugor), A rival awaits for the quarterfinals on Friday: the Australian Alexei Popyrin or the Dutch Tallon Griekspoor. “Very happy to be racing again after going through difficult times in the last year and a half,” said the Spaniard.
– Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 6, 2022
In 91 minutes, Nadal showed some improvement with respect to those preparation duels, especially with the remains and, at times, the cut backhand. His first set was almost perfect. In half an hour he got 70% of first serves, with which he only lost two points, and left another two with seconds. In addition, he made two unforced errors, for a total of 13 at the end, and gave no break options to Berankis, a rival he had never faced and who broke down in the second set when his reaction was least expected. Rafa had started with a threatening 2-0 and, immediately afterwards, lost his serve. Although the victory was not in danger, because he looked good for mobility to respond to the changes of direction and the good rhythm that his opponent gave him, owner of a more than acceptable drive. And that, at 35 years old, is what should concern him the most for his chronic problems in his right foot due to that happy Müller-Weiss syndrome that has plagued him since 2005, at the dawn of his professional career. “The main thing is to be healthy. For the rest, what I need is to do the things that I can control, work, work and work, maintain the right attitude and be patient, because sometimes it can be frustrating to train and not see improvement. That happened. for weeks, “he explained after the meeting.
Bump and lengthen
After a calm game, solved in white, the winner of 88 titles, 20 of them Grand Slam, came out of a first bump caused by the step forward that Berankis took in his remains, and obtained a new break that he consolidated to open a gap . Then he gave up his turn again before solving the commitment to the counter, doing the rubber, something very his and, who knows, if premeditated when he considers that he needs minutes on the court.