Rafa Nadal played his first match after undergoing the mandatory fortnight’s quarantine and admits that the experience was not the best preparation for the upcoming Australian Open.
Of course it is not ideal to stay 14 days under quarantine but that’s the way we need to do things today. We can’t thank South Australia and Tennis Australia enough Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem
But despite the inconvenience he praised the authorities for the efforts they were making to help players compete at the first grand slam of the season, despite the endeavours of the coronavirus pandemic.
Making his contribution to the ‘Day at a Drive’ exhibition in Adelaide by beating Dominic Thiem 7-5 6-4, Nadal said: “The last two weeks have been honestly great.
“Of course it is not ideal to stay 14 days under quarantine but that’s the way we need to do things today. We can’t thank South Australia and Tennis Australia enough.
“It has been a very hard year for all of the world in general. In Spain we were hit very hard by the virus and we are still in a tough situation. I think Australia is an amazing positive example of how to make things the right way with the pandemic.
“I hope to have the right preparation for the Australian Open. I won there in 2009 which I think almost everybody forgot about. I will keep playing hard this year. It is a special one. I will keep trying my best.”
And while he may not have been at his best, he overcame a shaky start and by the end of the match, was displaying the sort of form which has seen him win 20-grand slam titles.
More importantly for the players, they were watched by a packed crowd generating the sort of atmosphere which they – and the fans – have so greatly missed. And those attending the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre certainly got their money’s worth!
The pair, who are likely to be protagonists in the latter stages of events during the forthcoming season and must be considered title contenders in Melbourne next month, matched each other from the outset, failing to convert early break point opportunities.
Thiem, the world No.3, served to a high standard while Nadal’s defence was exemplary with his stinging forehand in full flow.
With the score level at 5-5, a wild forehand mistake from Thiem turned the set in the world No.2’s favour as he went on to claim the set with a cross-court winner on set point.
It was very much the same scenario in the second with Nadal this time, getting the upper hand in the ninth game aided by two double faults and a loose volley from the Austrian
Thiem, who won his maiden major title in New York last year, echoed Nadal’s praise of Australia and described playing in front of fans as ‘special.’
“It’s (2020) been a very tough year for everybody. There was great success for me but I think now it’s time to be really thankful and grateful for everything you guys (the Australian authorities) did for us,” he said.
“I’m playing in front of my first almost full crowd in a year so it’s special for us.”
Both Nadal and Thiem will be back in action next week in the ATP Cup and are scheduled to play their first matches on the opening day when Spain face the hosts Australia and Austria take on Italy.