Rafael Nadal missed the second part of the 2021 season with foot issues. The Spaniard traveled to Australia this January, eager to test his body and get the rhythm. Rafa claimed the title at the small ATP 250 event in Melbourne and gained confidence ahead of the Australian Open.
The 20-time Major champion made a winning start at the season's first Major after beating Marcos Giron 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 49 minutes. Thus, Rafa secured his milestone 70th Australian Open victory, becoming the third player to achieve that after Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Nadal looked good on the court at Rod Laver Arena, losing 14 points behind the initial shot and fending off both break chances. The Spaniard grabbed 45% of the return points and turned them into five breaks from nine opportunities, enough to seal the deal in under two hours.
Rafa hit 34 winners and 26 unforced errors, dominating the shortest rallies and efficiently covering the net. Nadal held at love in the opening game with a service winner, and Giron got his name on the scoreboard with an ace in game two.
The Spaniard fired an ace in game three and claimed four straight points in the next one for an early break and a 3-1 advantage thanks to a beautiful running backhand winner at the net.
Rafael Nadal beat Marcos Giron in straight sets in Melbourne.
Nadal confirmed the break with a service winner in game five and fired a forehand winner in the next one to steal his rival's serve at love and open a 5-1 gap in swift 21 minutes.
Firing from all cylinders, Nadal closed the opener with an unreturned serve in game seven after 24 minutes, looking sharp and hoping for more in set number two. Struggling to match the opponent's level, Marcos netted a forehand in the opening game to lose serve for the third straight time.
The American created his first break chance in game two after Rafa's loose forehand. The Spaniard saved it and held after three deuces for a 2-0 advantage. World no. 6 closed the fourth game with a forehand crosscourt winner and held with ease at 3-2 with an unreturned serve.
Giron served well in game seven to remain within one break deficit, and Nadal grabbed the next one with a forehand winner. Marcos saved four set points on serve at 3-5 before Rafa closed it in game ten after forcing the rival's mistake for a 6-1, 6-4 lead.
The Spaniard grabbed a break at the beginning of the third set with a backhand down the line winner. He cemented it with an ace in game two and moved closer to the finish line. Nadal held at 15 in game four and broke Giron in the next one after an incredible slice that propelled him 4-1 ahead.
A service winner pushed Rafa further in front, and Marcos reduced the deficit to 5-2 with a fine hold. Nadal served for the victory in game eight and faced a break point after a wayward forehand. The 2009 champion saved it with an ace down the T line and sealed the deal with a service winner for a place in the second round.