Monday 22 January 2018

Tennis: Nadal eases past first rival and back into public's hearts

Rafa Nadal. Photo: Getty Images
Rafa Nadal. Photo: Getty Images

Brendan Gallagher

So where were we before injury so rudely interrupted? Let's think, Rafa Nadal was triumphantly climbing over the television commentary boxes on Centre Court, as only champions can, to hug mum and dad after probably the greatest tennis game in history.

The photographers captured some of the most iconic pictures in tennis history. Life was sweet and the future seemingly golden.

Yesterday, Nadal returned to the scene of his greatest triumph and in the minds of most present began his title defence a year late when he immediately engaged his A-game to dismiss Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-4 6-4 in masterly fashion.

The Japanese youngster worked Nadal hard but there was no hint of a Federer-like wobble from the day before. Nadal was at pains to point out that Federer is the champion and that he had failed to defend his crown last year because his body was not fit for purpose and that's solely down to him.

Such natural chivalry is part of Nadal's charm and he insists that the epic 2008 encounter with Federer didn't enter his mind yesterday. That would have been to disrespect his opponent.

"When I go on court I think about the opponent and about playing my best tennis," he said. "I have no time to think about other things."

Much has changed, on and off the court, including the separation of Nadal's parents, in two years but one thing that will never change is Nadal's attitude to tennis. Nor that of the crowd's towards him.

  • Fourth seed Andy Murray breezed into the second round by beating Czech player Jan Hajek 7-5 6-1 6-2, while Robin Soderling was similarly impressive in a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Robby Ginepri. (Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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