Aiava starts strong, Nadal’s knee okay on opening day at KooyongPosted on January 9, 2018
Rafael Nadal made his debut at the 2018 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic on Tuesday and left the court in good spirits without appearing to aggravate a recent knee injury during his defeat to Richard Gasquet.
Despite having never lost to the Frenchman on the ATP Tour the world No. 1 from Spain was satisfied with his body after the match that ended 4-6 5-7, his first since withdrawing from the ATP Finals last November.
In other matches on the first day of the event celebrating its 30th anniversary Andrea Petkovic defeated Destanee Aiava, Pablo Carreno Busta played from behind to beat David Goffin before Yoshihito Nishioka beat Bernard Tomic.
Nadal, the 31-year-old who has won 16 Grand Slam titles, claimed the French and US Open titles last year but again battled through ongoing knee pain that eventually cut his season short and jeopardised his 2018 campaign.
“I am good, if I am here, and if I wasn’t feeling good I would not be here, so that’s good news,” Nadal told Channel 7 on court after the match.
“So, I just need to keep practicing hard the next couple of days to be ready for the Australian Open.
“I had a long year last year, so I had to start my preparation later than usual, but I’ve arrived with plenty of time and it’s a good day to start again the feelings of playing a match.
“It’s not an official match but still a test for me and good practice, that’s the most important thing, that’s the most important thing for the whole season.”
Australian teenager Aiava stepped out on her home court at Kooyong, where she is a member, for a second consecutive year but was this time much more composed taking the first set with some clean hitting against Petkovic.
Despite struggling to hit the target with her first serve Aiava played aggressively from the outset and was able to break the serve of the former world No. 7 from Germany twice in the first set.
“I had a great start but then in the second and third set lost my rhythm,” Aiava conceded.
“Didn’t play my best I guess, but at least I got a set… she’s got a lot of experience on me I guess and that played a part as well.
“It’s all preparation for Aus Open, so it doesn’t really matter right now, my main focus is on that.”
The first player born this century to play in a Grand Slam not only felt different on the court from her last outing at Kooyong in 2017, she also looked different sporting a blonde head of hair for the new year.
“Compared to last year I felt a lot better,” Aiava added.
“The result doesn’t really matter, I’m not really fussed about that today.”
Tomic was philosophical after his 3-6 3-6 defeat to Nishioka that was predominately used as match practice before he makes a last-minute bid to qualify for the Australian Open on Wednesday in the qualifier tournament.
“It was good to get on the court today,” Tomic said.
“Was very windy but kind of better that it was this way, and anything is possible tomorrow, it can get really windy and I obviously need matches.
“I haven’t played that much tennis the last six months, so anything is good for me now… it’s not an issue that I’m playing quallies for me I just need more matches and get back to feeling confident on the court.”