Rafael Nadal skipped the second part of the 2021 season due to a foot injury, playing two matches after Roland Garros. Nadal gave his best to recover for the 2022 season, traveling to Melbourne without knowing what to expect.
Instead of the ATP Cup, Rafa opted to enter a small ATP 250 event in Melbourne and seek form and matches. World no. 6 faced Ricardas Berankis in the second round and earned a 6-2, 7-5 triumph in an hour and 31 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
Rafa looked sharp in his first official match in five months, playing well on serve and return and advancing under a closed roof. Nadal got broken twice in the second set and produced five return games to control the scoreboard and avoid a decider.
The Spaniard held in the encounter's opening game with an unreturned serve before Berankis repeated that in the next one for 1-1. 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.
A 20-time Major winner found his return in game four and forced the opponent's mistake to grab a break and forge a 3-1 gap after 14 minutes.
Rafael Nadal defeated Ricardas Berankis in Melbourne.
Rafa claimed the fifth game with a booming serve to confirm the break and extend the lead.
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 and experienced the first setback behind the initial shot after Ricardas' beautiful volley winner. The lower-ranked player held in game four after Rafa's backhand mistake, hoping to keep that rhythm and challenge a 20-time Major winner even more.
Nadal remained calm and held at love with a service winner in game five. He broke in the next one following Berankis' loose forehand to open a 4-2 gap. The Spaniard took four straight points from 30-0 down in the seventh game and moved a game away from the finish line.
Ready to fight, Ricardas broke back at 15 in the 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 for a place in the quarter-final.