LONDON: Rafael Nadal was able to take the positive from the negative as he revealed his knee was “fine” after losing his first match of the year.
The world No. 1 has been doubt for the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam, with his knee injury hampering his end to 2017 and forcing him to miss last week’s Brisbane International.
But he was able to face Richard Gasquet at the Kooyong Classic and although he lost 6-4, 7-5 to the Frenchman, was happy to be back and fit.
“I’m very happy to be back in Australia,” the Spanird said.
“I had a heavy year in 2017 and I started my preparation later than usual.
“But I’ve arrived in plenty of time. It’s great to get the feeling once again of playing a match.
“This was a good test for me after some good training, that’s the most important thing.”
The 16-time Grand Slam winner was far from his best in the exhibition encounter against a player he has beaten 15 times and not lost to once on the ATP Tour in a rivalry dating back to their junior days.
Nadal, 31, heads the entry list for the Australian Open and said he will be ready to front up for the first round.
“The knee is fine,” he said in answer to the inevitable question. “I’m here.
“If I was not feeling good I would not be here, so that’s good news.
“I’ll train hard over the next few days for the Australian Open, I will be ready.”
Nadal is not playing any more matches at Kooyong, but he is also scheduled to turn out for a Tie Break Tens tournament at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.
Gasquet, who missed Kooyong last year through illness and injury, was happy to get even an informal win over the Spaniard.
“It’s always a pleasure to play Rafa — I hope to beat him one day on the ATP before retiring. He’s a friend of mine and it’s great to play him,” he said.
“I’m happy with how I’m playing after a test against Rafa, who along with Federer is the best in history.”
AUSSIE OPEN AILMENTS
The year’s first Grand Slam has been hit by big-name withdrawals with the possibility of more…
ANDY MURRAY: The Briton pulled out of his second successive Grand Slam having had surgery on his troublesome hip.
KEI NISHIKORI: Ruled himself out of the tournament earlier this week having suffered with a wrist injury since last summer.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Won in Melbourne 12 months ago while pregnant. Has not played since and says is not ready for a Grand Slam.
VICTORIA AZAREKA: The former world No. 1 misses out due to to an ongoing legal battle surrounding the custody of her son.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Has not pulled out yet but is using exhibition matches to decide whether his injured elbow is up to the rigors of a two-week tournament.