Australian Open 2019: Rafael Nadal, the Champ is back
Interviewer’s words “straight-sets win, but not so straightforward” aptly describe World No.2 Rafael Nadal’s victory in his first professional match after a long injury lay-off since last year’s US Open semi-final.
He spent some quality time in the middle on the first afternoon on Rod Laver Arena as he sent his opponent 26-year old Australian James Duckworth packing 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in their first-round meeting in just over two hours.
Rafa made an impressive start to his 14th Australian open campaign as he broke Duckworth right away thanks to his poor opening service game. Nadal consolidated on his service games as he maintained his lead throughout the first set eventually winning it by the margin of 6-4.
One of the noticeable changes that we came across on his first day in the office at Melbourne was his much-improved service game. Not only were his serves accurate but also had good pace on them and his first serve percentage of 67% was pretty impressive.
As we know, in a bid to make his service more faster and potent so that Rafa can play an aggressive brand of Tennis, being able to close out his service games faster than he previously could, Carlos Moya and team Rafa have brought about a slight change in his technique, thereby making his serving motion fluid and smoother. And as far as his first match at the Rod Laver Arena was concerned, it surely appears to be have paid dividends.
Nadal, after making a wobbly start in the second set, being broken in the 2nd game of the set came storming back to win the second set 6-3. Nadal came up with a solid response in the very immediate game to break back the big Australian and two further breaks in the set all but sealed the set for the Spaniard.
Just as one thought it was all going way too easy for Rafa and he could very well run away with the match inside 2 hours, Duckworth showed some resilience as he fought back from 2-5 down in the 3rd set to be on par with Rafa at 5-5, breaking back the 2009 Australian Open champion in the 9th game of the set.
The Aussie fans were right behind the local lad, supporting him with whatever they could, but it was way too much to ask from Duckworth as Rafa was in no mood to push the set into the Tie-break. The match ended in a similar way as it begun as the King of Clay broke for the 2nd time in the set to take away the set 7-5 and thereby seal the match to kick-off his quest for 2nd Australian Open title in the best possible way.
The 26-year old Australian was impressive in bits and pieces as he looked to be aggressive from the word go. Some of his winners deserve an appreciation but he committed far too many unforced errors and that’s the last thing you would want to do, especially, if you are squaring off against one of the greats of the game, if not the greatest.
Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, played with a meticulous approach, showing no signs of injury or rustiness and when had a chance, executed some vintage Nadal shots, comforting not only his team but also millions of the fans around the globe with a belief that their champ is back where he belongs!