World no. 6 Rafael Nadal needed only one match to advance into the semi-final of the pre-Australian Open ATP 250 Melbourne event. Scott Griekspoor gave Nadal a walkover due to a foot injury. The Spaniard will now face the young Finn Emil Ruusuvuori in a battle for a place in the final.
Nadal is playing the first ATP tournament since August, struggling with a foot injury since Roland Garros and skipping Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. Rafa tested his foot in Washington and decided to close the season after two matches, giving his body time to rest and returning to action at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
The Spaniard lost both encounters to Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov and went home to practice ahead of the Melbourne trip. Entering the first event of the new season, Nadal will try to win the first ATP title since May last year and gain confidence ahead of the Australia Open.
This week, Rafa's only match in Melbourne came in the second round against Ricardas Berankis at Rod Laver Arena, with the Spaniard scoring a 6-2, 7-5 triumph in an hour and 31 minutes. Nadal got broken twice in the second set and produced five return games to control the scoreboard and move into the last eight.
The Spaniard held in the opening game with an unreturned serve before Berankis repeated that to get his name on the scoreboard. Rafa forced the rival's mistake to grab a break in the fourth game and hit a service winner in the next one to open a 4-1 gap.
Rafa held at love in the seventh game and broke again a few minutes later to claim the opener in just over half an hour.
Rafael Nadal will play in the ATP 250 Melbourne semi-final.
Pushing strong, Nadal broke in the second set's second game after Berankis' double fault and squandered three break points in the third game to experience a break following Ricardas' volley winner.
Rafa held at love in game five and broke a few minutes later to move 4-2 ahead. From 30-0 down, the Spaniard took four straight points in the seventh game and moved a game away from victory. Ricardas broke back at 15 in the very last moment at 3-5 after forcing Rafa's error to prolong the encounter and his chances.
Nadal lost focus a bit in those moments, and Berankis held with a service winner after three deuces in game ten to level the score 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 to celebrate the first victory in five months.