Nadal finished off a 6-3 6-4,6-1 win in just under two hours in his first competitive match in months
Rafael Nadal’s injured back didn’t slow down his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title on Tuesday, as women’s World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty romped to a 6-0, 6-0 ‘double bagel’ at the Australian Open.
On a day when women’s champion Sofia Kenin also reached round two, but two-time winner Victoria Azarenka lost after breathing problems, Nadal and Barty were the headline acts.
Spanish great Nadal, who pulled out of the ATP Cup with a back problem, beat Serbia’s Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, meanwhile, extended his winning streak to 15 matches with an emphatic 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.
Just having fun
Barty later outclassed Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, losing only 10 points as she raced into round two in just 44 minutes. With the win Barty, last year’s semifinalist who sat out most of the 2020 season, ramped up hopes of a first Australian women’s winner in 43 years.
Women’s champion Kenin was less convincing during her 7-5, 6-4 win against Australian Maddison Inglis.
But there were distressing scenes as an ailing Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 champion, went out to Jessica Pegula.
Azarenka, who was one of the players locked down in hard quarantine pre-tournament and not allowed out of her room for 14 days, began to suffer in the second set.
The 2020 US Open runner-up was seen gasping and using an inhaler, and then looked close to collapse on court. After a medical time-out she played on but lost 7-5, 6-4.
Too hot to handle
India’s Sumit Nagal, meanwhile, exited with a first-round defeat, struggling to cope with the power-packed game of Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.
Nagal’s challenge deflated as Berankis’ powerful groundstrokes proved too good for the Indian. The verdict 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 10 minutes. Nagal had lost to the World No. 72 in last week’s tune-up event too.