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Rafael Nadal makes winning start to 2022 with straight-set victory in Melbourne
The Spaniard defeated Ricardas Berankis, 6-2, 7-5, in his first tour-level singles match in five months.
Published Jan 06, 2022
Rafael Nadal made a winning start to his 2022 season at the Melbourne Summer Set on Thursday, defeating Ricardas Berankis in an hour and 31 minutes, 6-2, 7-5.
It was Nadal’s first tour-level singles match in 154 days, or five months and one day, having fallen to South Africa's Lloyd Harris in the third round of Washington D.C. on August 5th, 2021, before ending his season due to a nagging foot injury.
“I’ve been going through some difficult, challenging moments the last year and a half, but in general terms I’m happy to be back in competition,” Nadal said.
“Of course, it’s important to start with a victory—it gives me the chance to play again tomorrow.”
Nadal, the No. 1 seed at the ATP 250 event, came out swinging against Berankis, racing out to a set-and-a-break lead, 6-2, 2-0, in just over half an hour. Berankis never stopped fighting—he won the next two games to catch up to 2-all in the second set, and after Nadal won the next three games to build a 6-2, 5-2 lead, Berankis won three games in a row of his own—including breaking the Spaniard as he served for the match at 6-2, 5-3—to even things up at 5-all in the second set.
But Nadal saved some of his best tennis for last, holding then breaking at love to close it out, 6-2, 7-5, ripping one last crosscourt forehand winner on match point.
The Spaniard finished the match with an almost-even 16 winners to 18 unforced errors, and converted on five of his eight break point opportunities.
Most importantly, the 20-time Grand Slam champion is feeling healthy.
“The main thing is to be healthy. That’s probably the only thing,” he said. “The only thing I need to do is work, work and work, and stay with the right tactics, and be patient, because sometimes it can be frustrating to work and not see a real improvement. That’s what was happening for a lot of weeks.
“So here I am. I’m very excited. I just want to play tennis and enjoy it.”
Nadal’s win over the No. 104-ranked Berankis was his 40th win in a row against players ranked outside the Top 50, his last loss to a player outside that range coming to a No. 72-ranked Nick Kyrgios in the second round of Acapulco in 2019.
It was also his 22nd win in a row against players ranked outside the Top 100, his last loss to a player outside that range coming against a No. 143-ranked Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Masters 1000 event in Canada in 2017.
Awaiting Nadal in the quarterfinals on Friday will be either No. 61-ranked Alexei Popyrin or No. 65-ranked Tallon Griekspoor.