World no. 6 Rafael Nadal kicked off the new season in singles with a 6-2, 7-5 triumph over Ricardas Berankis on Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena in an hour and 31 minutes. Rafa played his first official singles match in five months and looked sharp on the court, delivering good numbers on serve and return to leave the rival behind and advance into the quarters under a closed roof.
Nadal got broken twice in the second set and produced five return games to control the scoreboard and advance without playing a decider. The Spaniard held in the opening game with an unreturned serve before Berankis repeated that in the next one to get his name on the scoreboard.
Nadal opened the court nicely with his lefty serve in the third game and placed a forehand winner that sent him 2-1 in front. The 20-time Major winner found his return in game four and forced the opponent's mistake to grab a break and open a 3-1 gap after 14 minutes.
Rafael Nadal is through to the Melbourne ATP 250 quarter-final.
Pushing hard so far, Rafa claimed the fifth game with a booming serve to confirm the break and extend the lead before Ricardas fired a service winner for a hold at love and reduced deficit.
Nadal delivered a hold at love in game seven with an unreturned serve and secured the second break at 5-2 to bring the opener home in just over half an hour. The Spaniard held at the beginning of the second set after forcing the opponent's mistake and broke in game two following Berankis' double fault.
Nadal squandered three game points in the third game to experience the first setback behind the initial shot and get broken after a beautiful volley winner from Ricardas. The lower-ranked player held in game four after Rafa's backhand mistake, hoping to keep that rhythm and challenge the 20-time Major winner even more in the rest of the set.
Remaining calm, Nadal held at love with a service winner in game five and broke in the next one following Berankis' loose forehand to open a 4-2 gap. From 30-0 down, the Spaniard took four straight points in the seventh game and moved a game away from the finish line.
Ready to fight, Ricardas broke back at 15 in the very last moment at 3-5 after forcing Rafa's error to reduce the deficit and prolong the encounter. Nadal lost focus a bit in those moments, and Berankis held with a service winner after three deuces in game ten to lock the result at 5-5.
Rafa fired two service winners at 30-30 in the 11th game and sealed the deal with a break at love a few minutes later.