Rafael Nadal up and running in Australian Open

Spaniard beats Marcos Giron in straights sets as he chases a record 21st Grand Slam title

 Spain’s Rafael Nadal serves against Marcos Giron of the US during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open  in Melbourne. Photograph:  Brandon Malone/AFP via Getty Images

Spain’s Rafael Nadal serves against Marcos Giron of the US during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: Brandon Malone/AFP via Getty Images

 

Rafael Nadal is taking no pleasure from the absence of great rival Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, even if it means he has a clearer shot at the Grand Slam title record.

Level on 20 Grand Slam titles with Djokovic and Roger Federer, the Spanish great said it would be “better for everyone” if the Serbian was competing at Melbourne Park.

“The ideal situation in the world of sport [is] that the best players are on court and playing the most important events, without a doubt,” Nadal said on Monday after trouncing American Marcos Giron 6-1 6-4 6-2 to sail into the second round.

“If Novak Djokovic is playing here, it’s better for everybody, no doubt about that.”

Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday after losing a court case to have the cancellation of his visa overturned.

The world number one has drawn flak for refusing to vaccinate against Covid-19 and for attending public events last month after testing positive.

However, sixth seed Nadal said Djokovic was not the only party at fault for the “terrible situation we faced for the last two weeks” and that others must share the responsibility.

“I think the situation has been a mess,” added the Spaniard, who would have met Djokovic in the semi-finals if the draw went with seeding.

“He’s not the only one that did probably the things bad in that case. So on a personal level, yes, I would like to see him playing here.

“If it’s fair or not that he’s playing here is another discussion that I don’t want to talk anymore about that.”

The only former champion left in the draw, Nadal started his tournament superbly at a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena, breaking world number 66 Giron five times in the match and thrashing 34 winners past the outclassed American.

Having played only two matches after the 2021 French Open last season, Nadal has started the new season winning all four completed matches he has played, and that was after coming back from a recent Covid-19 infection.

“One month ago, situation has been different,” he said. “Looks very ugly in some way. Now here we are, no?”

In the second round, the Spaniard will take on German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, who brought Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis back down to earth.

Kokkinakis, who has been blighted by injuries in recent years, won an emotional first ATP Tour title in his home city of Adelaide on Saturday but was unable to back it up and fell to a 6-2 6-3 6-2 defeat.

Third seed Alexander Zverev came from a break down in the third set to defeat fellow German Daniel Altmaier 7-6 (3) 6-1 7-6 (1) while last year’s surprise semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, seeded 18 this time, needed just short of five hours to see off Jaume Munar.

Matteo Berrettini is the highest seed left in the top quarter in Novak Djokovic’s absence. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA
Matteo Berrettini is the highest seed left in the top quarter in Novak Djokovic’s absence. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

Matteo Berrettini is the highest seed left in the top quarter in Djokovic’s absence and he overcame stomach troubles to beat Brandon Nakashima 4-6 6-2 7-6 (5) 6-3.

Salvatore Caruso was unable to take advantage of stepping in for Djokovic as a lucky loser, going down 6-4 6-2 6-1 to the world number one’s countryman Miomir Kecmanovic.

Eighteen-year-old Carlos Alcaraz is one of the men looking to make it deep into the tournament from that section of the draw and, seeded at a Slam for the first time, he made an impressive start with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 victory over Alejandro Tabilo.

Gael Monfils, in the same section, was another comfortable winner, beating Federico Coria 6-1 6-1 6-3, while there were also victories for 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz and 14th seed Denis Shapovalov.

The Canadian is playing his first Grand Slam tournament after recruiting Britain’s Jamie Delgado, long-time coach of Andy Murray.

“I wanted to take a guy like Jamie just because he’s got so much experience being with Andy all these years,” said Shapovalov.

“He’s got the drive and experience to bring a player to a top level.

“It’s definitely been really great with him. Obviously it’s very early on but I think the few things that we’ve implemented into the game have been great. I do feel like we understand each other really well.”

Men’s first-round results

Miomir Kecmanovic (Ser) bt Salvatore Caruso (Ita) 6-4 6-2 6-1, Tommy Paul (USA) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) 6-3 6-4 6-2, Oscar Otte (Ger) bt Chun Hsin Tseng (Tpe) 6-4 6-3 6-2, (25) Lorenzo Sonego (Ita) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 7-5 6-3 6-3, (17) Gael Monfils (Fra) bt Federico Coria (Arg) 6-1 6-1 6-3, Alexander Bublik (Kaz) bt Ernesto Escobedo (USA) 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-3, Pedro Martinez Portero (Esp) bt Federico Delbonis (Arg) 7-6 (17-15) 3-6 6-4 6-2, (16) Christian Garin (Chi) bt Facundo Bagnis (Arg) 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-7 (4-7) 6-3, Sebastian Korda (USA) bt (12) Cameron Norrie (Brit) 6-3 6-0 6-4, Corentin Moutet (Fra) bt Lucas Pouille (Fra) 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-3, Tallon Griekspoor (Ned) bt Fabio Fognini (Ita) 6-1 6-4 6-4, (19) Pablo Carreno-Busta (Esp) bt Tomas Martin Etcheverry (Arg) 6-1 6-2 7-6 (7-2), (31) Carlos Alcaraz Garfia (Esp) bt Alejandro Tabilo (Chi) 6-2 6-2 6-3, Dusan Lajovic (Ser) bt Marton Fucsovics (Hun) 6-3 4-6 6-1 6-7 (6-8) 6-1, Stefan Kozlov (USA) bt Jiri Vesely (Cze) 7-5 6-3 6-4, (7) Matteo Berrettini (Ita) bt Brandon Nakashima (USA) 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, (3) Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt Daniel Altmaier (Ger) 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 7-6 (7-1), John Millman (Aus) bt Feliciano Lopez (Esp) 6-1 6-3 4-6 7-5, Radu Albot (Mol) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (Jpn) 6-3 6-4 4-6 6-2, Aleksandar Vukic (Aus) bt (30) Lloyd George Harris (Rsa) 4-6 6-3 7-5 7-6 (7-3), (23) Reilly Opelka (USA) bt Kevin Anderson (Rsa) 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3), Dominik Koepfer (Ger) bt Carlos Taberner (Esp) 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-1, Soon Woo Kwon (Kor) bt Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (Den) 3-6 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2, (14) Denis Shapovalov (Can) bt Laslo Djere (Ser) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-3), (10) Hubert Hurkacz (Pol) bt Egor Gerasimov (Blr) 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3, Adrian Mannarino (Fra) bt James Duckworth (Aus) 6-4 2-6 3-6 6-2 6-1, MacKenzie McDonald (USA) bt Nikola Milojevic (Ser) 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-2, (18) Aslan Karatsev (Rus) bt Jaume Munar (Esp) 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-4, (28) Karen Khachanov (Rus) bt Denis Kudla (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-2), Benjamin Bonzi (Fra) bt Peter Gojowczyk (Ger) 6-3 6-3 6-3, Yannick Hanfmann (Ger) bt Thanasi Kokkinakis (Aus) 6-2 6-3 6-2, (6) Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Marcos Giron (USA) 6-1 6-4 6-2

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