Sleeveless Nadal wins on Australian Open return
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):
If Rafael Nadal gave the Australian Open a throwback feel last year with his straight-out-of-the-mid-2000s final against Roger Federer, he has completed the retro effect this year with a return to his sartorial roots - a sleeveless T-shirt.
Matching the muscle-exposing Nike tank top with neon pink shorts, wristbands and headband, Nadal also found his championship form again in a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 rout of 37-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos in the first round at Melbourne Park.
The top-ranked Spaniard, who made a splash as a teenager with his trademark sleeveless shirts and knee-length pirate pants, came into this year's Australian Open with questions about his health and readiness to compete, following a taxing season that saw him capture two Grand Slams and return to No. 1.
LINGERING KNEE INJURY
Nadal had been forced to withdraw from the ATP Finals in November due to a lingering right-knee injury, and when the pain persisted, he also pulled out of a season-opening exhibition event in Abu Dhabi and his first tournament in Brisbane.
With only a few exhibition matches last week to test his form, Nadal had doubts he would be ready to go in time for the first major of the year. But a dominant performance against Estrella Burgos - he had 28 winners and saved five of six break points he faced - left him feeling positive about his start in Melbourne.
"If I don't feel myself ready, I would not be here. So I am happy to be here, happy that I'm on court again," he said.
With several top seeds falling on the women's side, including 2017 Australian Open finalist Venus Williams and US Open champion Sloane Stephens, the men's draw was largely spared similar upsets.
Third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov advanced with a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Dennis Novak, while No. 6 Marin Cilic topped Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (5) and local favorite Nick Kyrgios looked sharp in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Rogerio Dutra Silva.
Selected Australian Open results from yesterday
1 Rafael Nadal 6 6 6
Victor Estrella Burgos 1 1 1
17 Nick Kyrgios 6 6 6
Rogerio Dutra da Silva 1 2 4
Ruben Bemelmans 6 6 6 7
18 Lucas Pouille 4 4 7 6
Yuichi Sugita 6 7 5 6
8 Jack Sock 1 6 7 3
Mihaela Buzarnescu 2 32
Caroline Wozniacki 6 6
Ivana Jorovic 3 24
Elina Svitolina 6 6
Carla Suarez Navarro 7 6
Magdalena Frech 5 3
23 Daria Gavrilova 6 6
Irina Falconi 1 1