Brisbane | Nadal gets a warm welcome as he returns with a confident win

The main attraction at the Brisbane International was the return of Rafa Nadal to professional tennis following virtually, a year away from the sport with a hip-injury which could well have ended his career.

Today is an emotional and important day for me after one of the toughest years of my tennis career," Nadal said on court Rafa Nadal

Rafa is definitely back. He showed a bit of rustiness when he lost a doubles match last Sunday but the more important moment of his return, was how he would perform in singles play a few days later.

And it wasn’t going to be easy for he had drawn the Austrian Dominic Thiem for his opening match, a player who was well experienced in dealing with the Spaniard having beaten him six times in 15 previous meetings.

Both in fact had experienced time off the circuit with injuries but Thiem was ahead of Nadal in terms of recovery, and both were former champions of the event.

When the pair were introduced to the crowd, the applause which greeted Nadal on his entry showed how much the 22-time grand slam champion had been missed.

His response on court was indeed impressive bearing in mind the circumstances and Nadal’s own admission of uncertainty.

The Spaniard was dominant and once he had basically warmed up, he ran off with the match 7-5 6-1 in 89-minutes and declared himself satisfied with the result.

“Today is an emotional and important day for me after one of the toughest years of my tennis career,” Nadal said on court.

“The support [from fans] is super important to me especially in the low moments. I received thousands of messages during the year.”

Rafael Nadal roars after taking the first set

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

If anyone had doubted his ability to make a comeback, that would have been immediately dashed by Nadal’s forehand on the first point, hammered for a winner into the corner of the baseline.

It certainly set the tone and while Thiem was able to match him in a set where the serve played a major role; neither player faced a break point until the `12th game when the Austrian, serving to stay in the set. He in fact saved three set points with some positive serving but then a wayward forehand handed the set to his opponent.

Any doubts that Nadal might have had about his comeback, were certainly squashed with that set and his game became more dpminat in the second as he brushed Thiem aside for the loss of just one game, closing it out to a virtual standing ovation from the stands.

“I was very comfortable and then I was able to have that break at 6-5 and that makes the difference,” he said before paying tribute to Thiem.

“I know Dominic has been going through some hard times with injury as well and I wish him well for the season.”

Nadal plays Jason Kubler in round two after Russia’s Aslan Karatsev, the eighth seed, retired to the Australian with the score standing at 6-4 6-7.

And he wasn’t the only seed to fall in the opening round for America’s Sebastian Korda (5), Argentina’s Sebastian Baez (6), and his compatriot Tomas Martin Etcheverry (7) all crashed out with one more seed to play, Frenchman Ugo Humbert (4) which is scheduled for Wednesday and will complete the first round.
So far only the top two seeds have successfully cleared their opening round opponents.



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