Australian Open 2017 - Nadal the warrior is back!
Rafael Nadal showed Florian Mayer the door on Tuesday, beating the German 6-3 6-4 6-4 in the first round of the Australian Open. For the first time in months, the Majorcan is injury-free and full of confidence.
Chatting away in English during his pre-tournament press conference, Rafael Nadal evoked his love of fishing, alluded to the fact that he is not get any younger, and voiced his plans of going water-skiing once his professional career is over. The Majorcan is radiating confidence and serenity this year in Melbourne, a sign that "Rafa" the warrior is back. After a three-month absence from the tour last autumn − due to a wrist injury that had forced him to retire from Roland Garros, his favourite tournament − the "Manacor Bull", a man who is afraid of nothing and of no one, has made a decisive comeback.
This first-round match was a case of getting back to business, the day after his great rival and friend Roger Federer made his own return to competition, and Rafael Nadal sailed through the encounter without a hitch. The nine-time French Open champion did not drop a set or even a service game on Tuesday at the Rod Laver Arena, sweeping aside Germany's Florian Mayer in 6-3 6-4 6-4 in just over two hours (2 hrs 04). "I think I played a solid match, no?" he said after his victory. "It was great to be back in the big stadium. I feel the support of the people, I love the people. That is something that is very special for me."
Read more: Australian Open 2017 - Welcome back, Roger!
"When I am winning a lot of serves it is because I am playing well from the baseline"
Questions have been raised regarding his fitness, but prior to the tournament the Spaniard professed to having "practised very well for one month and a half in Mallorca." After this first victory in Melbourne, he acknowledged, "I hit a lot of winners. That's a positive thing for me." The statistics speak for themselves, showing a tally of 39 winners over the course of the match. He also served well, something spectators got a glimpse of in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, boasting a 77% conversion rate on his first serve. But, as he rightly said, "I not a player who wins the serves because I serve aces or free points, no. When I am winning a lot of serves it is because I am playing well from the baseline." And when Rafa is playing well from the baseline, it means he's feeling mentally strong, and vice-versa.
Free from injury at last, and bolstered by the presence of family friend Carlos Moya in his team alongside uncle and long-term coach Toni, Rafa can once again consider the future. "You cannot say I am ready for it or I am not ready for it," he explained philosophically a few days ago. "Let's see. The only thing that I can say is I am practising well. I am enjoying every practice. I feel myself ready for the competition. Then if that happens during the next couple of days, I am able to compete well from the beginning, you never know what can happen. I feel myself happen. That's the real thing." If his victorious debut is anything to go by, this feeling bodes well for the rest of the tournament.