PHOTOS/VIDEO: 2021 Australian Open R1 Rafael Nadal vs. Laslo Djere
2021 Australian Open R1 Rafael Nadal bt. Laslo Djere 6-3 6-4 6-1
Next opponent - Michael Mmoh
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal defied his gloomy injury prognosis and complete lack of match practice to crush Laslo Djere 6-3 6-4 6-1 on Tuesday and reach the Australian Open second round as he launched his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title.
The Spanish great had pulled out of his nation’s ATP Cup campaign with a back problem and was bordering on mournful on the eve on the Grand Slam when he said the injury was still affecting him.
Yet he was close to his all-action, fist-pumping best as he bounced around a sun-bathed Rod Laver Arena in the final set against Djere and painted the lines with trademark top-spin bombs.
“It’s been a tough 15 days for me,” said 2009 champion Nadal. “I needed to survive today so that’s what I did.
“I’m still alive and that’s the main thing.”
Second seed Nadal said his back was still bothering him against world number 56 Djere, the Spaniard’s first match since losing in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in November.
“Today it’s not great. I needed to change a little bit the motion of my serve. That’s what I tried to survive that condition today,” said the 34-year-old.
“I need to go day-to-day and just try to stay positive.”
Nadal said he hoped to last as long as he could in Australia, where people have regained most of their pre-pandemic freedom after containing COVID-19.
Nadal had “no parties for one year already”, at home in Spain.
“Here (people) are in a different situation. They are able to stay together. They are able to go out and have fun and be a lot of people together in one place, so it’s a different story than what we are facing.
“We dream about being back to that situation.”
Photos: Getty Images; REUTERS; AFP; Icon Sportswire; AP; EFE; Tennis Australia
• Last game & On-court Interview
• Press conference
• Interview for Eurosport (ES)
Q. How important has it been to win the match in straight sets? What have been your feelings after the match?
Rafa: "The feelings are the logical feelings after being without competing for months. I think I've done what I needed to do today.
As for how important it has been, we'll know it in the future. Truth is that today I could have lost the tournament, but not win it. What I've done by winning in 3 sets is not to make things worse, as far as my back is concerned The feeling after the match isn't worse than before starting the match, which I think is a positive step forward. Now I have one day and a half to go on trying to recover to see if I, together with the doctors and physios, are able to find solutions.
Anyway, each day I'm here means more chances for things to improve. So, my job is to stay positive and 100% focused to evaluate every moment/situation, which is what I've done today & why I won in 3 sets, and look ahead in an optimistic way, as there is no other way around it."
Q. Can you tell us how the back pain affects your game, the mechanics and also what it means mentally to play with this back issue?
Rafa: "First of all, when you're playing with some limitation in a shot, everything becomes more difficult because you're paying attention to hit that shot in a different way from what you're used to in order to try not to worsen the issue. Thus, when I'm serving I'm not only thinking where to serve but also how to do it, so that the back doesn't hurt. When this happens, the reaction after the serve is slower and usually your game as a whole gets affected because of it. When I'm returning it doesn't bother me, tho if I start forcing the back, I can reach a point in which the back will not only hurt when I serve but also doing other things. In the way I served today, it was bothering me when I was serving, but not with any other shot. That's how things are right now. We'll see what happens. We're working very hard to try to improve. Any improvement, even if slight, is very welcome and hope to be a little bit better for the next match."
Translated by Genny SS