(AFP) – Rafael Nadal made a triumphant return to the ATP Tour on Tuesday, winning his first tournament match since capturing the Australian Open title to reach the second round of the Mexican Open.
21-time Grand Slam champion defeated US lucky loser Dennis Kudla 6-3, 6-2 to book a date with another American who advanced in similar fashion, Rafa practice partner Stefan Kozlov, in the last 16.
Rafa won his men’s record 21st Grand Slam title at last month’s Australian Open, breaking the career mark he had shared with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Rafa broke 100th-ranked Kudla in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead and held from there to claim the first set of their first career meeting.
When Kudla sent a forehand long to surrender the first break of the second set, Rafa seized a 2-1 lead and held at love to 3-1.
Rafa broke again for a 4-1 edge and held twice more, claiming the victory on a forehand winner after one hour and 16 minutes. He fired eight aces and won 36 of 40 points on his serve in the dominating outing.
“It has been a positive match. I think I started playing well, a good victory in straight sets. That’s always very positive for the confidence,” he said post-match. “I think I played a very solid match for the first day. Of course there are a couple of things that I can do better, but in general terms, I played well so I can’t complain at all.”
With the win, he matches his best start to an ATP Tour season at 11-0. Rafa also won 11 straight matches to start the 2014 season, before losing to Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open final.
Sources: AFP, ATP Tour