Rafael Nadal had to close his 2021 well in advance due to the exacerbation of a chronic foot problem. The former world number 1 played just seven official tournaments last year, while still managing to put a couple of trophies on his beloved clay court.
After undergoing a foot treatment and recovering from COVID, the Spanish champion won the Melbourne ATP 250 with a series of good performances. The 20-time Grand Slam champion made his best debut at the Australian Open, a tournament that crowned him only once back in 2009.
The 35-year-old from Manacor got rid of Marcos Giron in the first round with a score of 6-1 6- 4 6-2 on the Rod Laver Arena. Rafa scored 34 winners, as well as never losing his serve during the match. The next hurdle in his path will be German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, who surprisingly eliminated Thanasi Kokkinakis.
On the Tennis Channel microphones, Lindsay Davenport analyzed Nadal's chances in Melbourne.
Davenport on Rafael Nadal
"It's great to see Rafael Nadal back out there healthy but three out of five sets on a hardcourt, on his body, I just don't know.
I mean I wanna see him get to 21. I think so much good could come out of it if Rafa has a great tournament and potentially wins here but lets see physically how he holds up," Lindsay Davenport said. Davenport, however, added an air of caution by reminding viewers that Nadal could have missed the Australian Open due to his foot ailment and positive COVID test.
"We got to remember, there was a chance that Rafa wasn't even gonna come. Not only the foot, (but he also) tested positive for COVID in late December. So everyone was thrilled when he got off the plane and showed the picture of himself on Rod Laver Arena," she added.
"But I think it's probably a big ask at this tournament, the courts are playing very fast. He's played seven tournaments, each of the last two years." The Spaniard began his quest for a record 21st Grand Slam title earlier today.
He defeated Marcos Giron of the USA 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round. He will next face qualifier Yannick Hanfmann of Germany. Even before the first match, the Australian Open has been making the headlines recently, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
As soon as Novak Djokovic entered Australia to defend his title Down Under, a controversy embroiled. Before the start of the Australian Open, the Spaniard was asked to express his views on this saga for a second time. The 35-year-old said that he was quite tired of that subject.
He further went on to add, “when he won the first trial I said here that the justice had spoken. Yesterday the decision was different. I will never be against what the justice says”.