Rafael Nadal, satisfied with his performance, takes a deep drink from the bottle that symbolizes the victory against the British Jack Draper in the first round: 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 and 6-1, after 3h 41m. The replenishing liquid has the same effect as the victory achieved against the British, worked and ruminated, very necessary. The Spaniard said before the premiere in Melbourne that in the case of circumventing the first season of the tournament, his range of possibilities would grow considerably, since he needed to unlock the box that had been denied him in recent times. He had not won an official match since mid-November –against Casper Ruud, in the Turin Finals– and had given up six of the last seven games, so the priority was that, to celebrate once and for all.
“It is my first victory of the year and that is an advance. Winning was the priority and it has been done, and also with good moments of play, although some mistakes have been made. I needed a win, that was the main thing. It has not been perfect, but I have been able to beat a very good opponent and this is especially positive, because it means that I have done things well”, answers the Spaniard, 15 years older than his opponent (21), a bone that does not give way until physically it dissolves, cramped in the final stretch. “Now I have to give them continuity and try to reduce the bad moments. The day after tomorrow I have another difficult opponent, who plays very direct, and represents another opportunity to improve. I will face it with the peace of mind of having already won a match, which lately was costing… ”, he says with relief, already knowing that he will face the American Macenzie McDonald, the 65th in the world.
Nadal, 36, talks in the conference room after resolving a duel with more twists than desired, but extremely productive; Valuable because in addition to allowing you to progress, he injects you with a good dose of optimism. “It was an important day because when you work, you want results”, he qualifies. “And I think the first set has been very orderly, in every way; I have not made any major or tactical errors”, emphasizes the man from Manacor, without omitting those “three specific errors” that have hardened the pulse, corrected on the basis of his own initiative and bursts of inspiration. He needs the Balearic Islands of hours of navigation and re-establish competitive biorhythms, and the effort against the English has a very beneficial effect.
Nadal goes up a notch mentally, he has another day to earn credit – he conceded only four games to McDonald in the only precedent, at Roland Garros in 2020 – and history indicates, by the way, that he already has as many wins as Ivan Lendl ; They are exactly 1,068, which places him on the all-time male podium, only behind Jimmy Connors (1,274) and the long-awaited Roger Federer (1,251).
Since he fell against Frances Tiafoe in the round of 16 of the US Open, the Spaniard only counted the victory against Ruud, diminished by a personal setback -related to his wife’s pregnancy-, the second abdominal tear of the year -produced in New York, after the previous one at Wimbledon– and the stress of having to re-engage in the competition on the go, in jerks and under forced circumstances.
“When you come from long periods injured, it is much better to start in tournaments a little smaller that allow you to win games. Unfortunately, the pregnancy, the injuries… ”, she recalls. “My return to competition was in a Masters 1000 [de París-Bercy]in indoors [bajo techo, el hábitat que más se le ha resistido]in the United Cup against two top [derrotas ante Cameron Norrie y Alex de Miñaur]… It has all been difficult, but I think that within what is possible I have competed well and in many of those games I have had a chance to win; they have not fallen on my side, but today [por ayer] yes and I think that each time I will be a little more prepared”, appreciates the defending champion.
The champion progressed at the opening of this edition, with almost 50,000 attendees at the Melbourne Park facilities. Spanish tennis regretted the eliminations of Pedro Martínez (7-6(1), 6-2 and 6-2 for Hubert Hurkacz), Bernabé Zapata (7-6(3), 6-2 and 6-0 in favor of Karen Khachanov ) and Jaume Munar (6-3, 6-2 and 6-2 with Dalibor Svrcina). Meanwhile, the followers of Novak Djokovic, who reappears this Tuesday against Roberto Carballés (11.00, Eurosport), continue to be concerned about the physical evolution of the Serbian, who has been suffering from muscular discomfort since last week and yesterday he exercised with a bandage on his left thigh.
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