Australian Open 2021: Rafa Nadal storms back to form, posts easy win

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. 

Nadal will meet the winner of two qualifiers – American Michael Mmoh or Viktor Troicki – for a place in the third round. 

Badosa crashes out after COVID-19 ordeal 

Paula Badosa, the only Australian Open player to contract COVID-19 in the leadup to the Grand Slam, bowed out of the first round on Tuesday with a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-5 loss to Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova. 

The Spanish world number 70 had a fraught buildup to the tournament, testing positive to the novel coronavirus while in quarantine last month. Her infection saw her transferred to a separate ‘health hotel’ where COVID-19 cases are isolated, and the clock on her mandatory period of isolation was restarted. 

Badosa complained bitterly about the experience, saying it was ‘far and away the worst’ of her career. Unable to compete in any of the leadup events, Badosa was short of match fitness when confronting Samsonova on a warm afternoon and was dragged into a dogfight by the world number 130. 

She battled into a position to serve for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set but ended up double-faulting on break point. Fatigue appeared to take its toll as she served to stay in the match, and Samsonova took full advantage, running Badosa ragged until the Spaniard sprayed a shot wide on match point. 

Samsonova advances to a second round match against last year’s finalist Garbine Muguruza. 

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