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Tennis-Nadal makes Tour singles return with win over Berankis in Melbourne

Randy Mancini 19 Jan 6
ATP 250 - Melbourne Summer Set
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - ATP 250 - Melbourne Summer Set - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 5, 2022 Spain's Rafael Nadal during a practice session REUTERS/Loren Elliott

January 6, 2022

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal stepped up his preparations for this month’s Australian Open with a 6-2 7-5 win over Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis in the second round of the Melbourne Summer Set ATP 250 tournament on Thursday.

Playing in his first competitive singles match on the ATP Tour since Aug. 5, the 20-times Grand Slam champion showed no signs of rust early on at Rod Laver Arena as he broke for a 3-1 lead in the opening set with a blistering forehand.

The world number six, who brought a premature end to his 2021 season due to a left foot injury, moved with ease on court as he wrapped up the first set in 31 minutes.

He was not quite so fluid in the second set, however, with the players trading early breaks.

Nadal went ahead 5-2 but Berankis clawed his way back into the contest to level at 5-5 before the Spaniard switched gears again to secure the victory.

“I’m super happy to be back playing competitively and it is difficult to imagine a better place than Australia to return,” said Nadal.

“It’s only my first match after a while and I have been going through difficult moments in the last year-and-a-half. But in general terms I’m happy and it’s important to start with a win.”

Nadal, who pulled out of Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and the U.S. Open in 2021, only returned to action last month in an Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament where he lost to Andy Murray.

The 35-year-old, who tested positive for COVID-19 last month, is also competing in doubles at Melbourne and will play again on Thursday partnering Jaume Munar.

In the women’s Melbourne Summer Set 1 tournament, twice Grand Slam champion Simona Halep marched into the quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-1 win over fellow Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse while Andrea Petkovic and Ana Konjuh also advanced.

Japanese top seed Naomi Osaka is in action later on Thursday against Maryna Zanevska of Belgium.

Daria Kasatkina, seeded third in the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament, overcame American Madison Keys 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 before Amanda Anisimova made short work of fifth seed Sorana Cirstea.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)