Shaky Nadal to see Australian Open second round after indecisive win

15th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

World number two faced some difficulties in beating 126th-ranked Troicki

15 January 2008

MADRID - Rafael Nadal got off to a rocky start at the Australian Open on Monday, seeing off a spirited challenge from Serbian contender Viktor Troicki, but failing to show the kind of prowess that he will need to get through to the final and, possibly, take the world number one spot.

Nadal struggled for two hours and 35 minutes to beat 19-year-old Troicki, a newcomer to the Grand Slam circuit who is ranked 126th in the world. He eventually gained the upper hand in the third set as Troicki's energy flagged, winning the match 7-6, 7-5, 6-1.

"Today was a tough start because [Troicki] played very aggressively. It was my first game and I was nervous, I didn't know my rival and he was playing very well, serving very well... and that made things a little complicated in the beginning," Nadal told reporters after the match. "However, I've been training a lot recently, at the highest level, and I'm happy with the result."

Nadal has been working hard to cast off the doubts that surrounded his physical performance at the end of last season, and which have yet to be entirely dispelled. After suffering a foot injury in 2005, Nadal has admitted to having to change his style of play, concentrating on honing his technique, while relying less on being able to physically dominate his opponents. Rumours again resurfaced when Nadal had to publicly refute comments made by his uncle and coach Toni Nadal to a Majorcan newspaper in late October suggesting this same foot injury might be "career-threatening."

The situation has not been helped by his embarrassing defeat to fourth-seeded Mikhail Youzhny at the final of the Chennai Open earlier this month, which the Majorcan-born player put down to "tiredness" as a result of his four-hour semifinal match played the day before.

However, Nadal has insisted that he is ready for Australia, particularly as, for the first time in his career, the tournament will give him a shot at becoming world number one. That will happen if the Spaniard wins the final and current world number one Roger Federer of Switzerland makes it no further than the semis, or if Nadal makes it to the final and Federer stumbles before the third round.

Theoretically, Nadal should have little to worry about, at least until the quarterfinals where he could meet Andy Roddick. His win yesterday over Troicki means he now goes on to face Frenchman Florent Serra in the second round.

In addition, Nadal is playing in his fourth Australian Open and has progressed a round further in each of his previous appearances in Melbourne. Last year he was beaten by eventual finalist Fernando González in the quarterfinals.

"Last year was a good tournament, I made it to the quarterfinals but I suffered in each game and with each new rival," Nadal said. "This time I feel better."

He also said he has few complaints about the new ultra-fast surface on Melbourne's courts, which should favour his playing style.

"The ball should probably bounce a bit more but I think that's more of a problem with the ball than the court. I'm adapting pretty well overall," he noted.

[Copyright EL PAÍS 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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