(Reuters) – Rafa Nadal defied his gloomy injury prognosis to crush Laslo Djere 6-3 6-4 6-1 and reach the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The Spanish great was not quite at his all-action, fist-pumping best but appeared unimpeded by his back problems as he posted an encouraging win over the 56th ranked Serb in the afternoon sunshine at Rod Laver Arena.
After closing out a tight second set, the second seed played like a man unburdened, racing to the finish line in a hail of winners before Djere conceded the match meekly with a double fault.
After the match, Rafa said:
“It’s been a tough 15 days for me because I had some issue with the back. I just had to focus today and get through. I did a good job today. Straight sets, that’s what I needed.”
“Let’s go day by day. It wasn’t ideal preparation but I’m still alive. I’m happy to be paying in Australia one more time and happy to stay here as long as possible.
“Every player needs the crowd. But it’s time to be responsible too. It’s time to take care of each other. Tennis is an important part of our lives but we are facing much more important things than that.”
Rafa will meet the winner of two qualifiers — American Michael Mmoh or Viktor Troicki — for a place in the third round.