Nadal makes a winning debut in Brisbane
RAFAEL Nadal has overcome his own scheduling decisions and his first Brisbane International opponent in a low-fuss start to his Australian campaign.
Nadal admits he cut it fine with an arrival early on Monday from a three-match exhibition series in Abu Dhabi he deemed important for his Australian Open preparation.
The 14-time grand slam champion's 6-3 6-3 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov, ranked No.62, was his first match at an ATP tournament since October due to a wrist injury.
Nadal retrieved a break of serve at 1-2 to piece together the next five games to take the first set.
"I had a little bit of jet lag and I knew that first match was very important because I (need) a lot of time in these conditions,” he said after the 78-minute encounter.
"I didn't compete for a while and while I had some matches last week.
"It's never easy in the first round.”
Ninth-ranked Nadal said he would relish a day with practice only before he plays the German left-hander Mischa Zverev in the second round on Thursday at Pat Rafter Arena.
Within a little over 24 hours, Nadal's great career foil Roger Federer made a winning return from a knee injury in Perth at the Hopman Cup and the Spaniard's win accelerates what Federer has touted as a "epic” period for tennis with the winners of 31 major titles back on the beat.
Nadal's first match in Brisbane started at 10.28pm after he was scheduled to the second of the night session and compatriot Garbine Muguruza took almost three hours to clinch a win over Russia's Daria Kasatkina.
It gave the 30-year-old left-hander at least a few extra hours on the ground in Brisbane.
Nadal's phenomenal expenditure of effort and ferocity of his spin transfixed his first Brisbane audience and there was barely an empty seat in the 5500-seat stadium despite the late start.
Nadal said he would not seek a day match against Zverev even though visiting players generally desire hot-weather matches in Brisbane.
"I was destroyed, on the bed at 2pm, so I think it would be better for me to play later (at night),” he said.
Pat Rafter Arena lived up to the advance praise he had heard from peers.
"It's a beautiful court and a great crowd,” he said.
"I was glad to win what was an important match for me. You can't construct a point with him (Dolgopolov). Sometimes I don't understand where he's going.”
Nadal stifled a huge yawn during his media conference and had a firm plan for what he would do on his day off other than an afternoon practice session.
"Sleep - and I hope I don't wake up early,” he said.