Nadal, Barty advance in straight sets at Australia Open

Melbourne, Feb 09 (AP): Facing a break point late in the third set, Rafael Nadal sprinted to his left and hit a running, around-the-post forehand that landed just inside the line.
The lingering back soreness that bothered the 20-time major champion ahead of the Australian Open wasn’t going to stop him from finishing his first-round match as quickly as he could.
Laslo Djere, ranked 56th, shrugged, his head dropped and he no doubt wondered what more he needed to do to win a point.
He’d had three break points when Nadal was serving for the second set, and didn’t get close to cashing in one.
When Djere, going for everything, double-faulted to open what became the last game of the match, a woman in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena yelled out “It’s all right, Laslo.”
Nadal finished off a 6-3 6-4,6-1 win in just under two hours in his first competitive match in months he didn’t play for Spain at the ATP Cup last week because of the back stiffness.
“My back is not perfect, as I said a couple of days ago,” Nadal said.
“Every day that I’m able to go through, probably there are more chances to get better. That’s the thing now there is always a chance to improve, and that’s why I’m here playing and fighting to try to get better and then give myself a chance.”
He’ll next play American qualifier Michael Mmoh, who outlasted Viktor Troicki 7-6 (3) 6-7 (3) 3-6 7-6 (3) 7-5.
While Nadal has been slowly building into the tournament, Russia’s ATP Cup-winning teammates have been on a roll.
Fourth-seeded Daniel Medvedev extended his winning streak to 15 matches with a 6-2 6-2 6-4 win over Vasek Pospisil and seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev beat Yannick Hanfmann 6-3 6-3 6-4.
While Sofia Kenin struggled with nerves in her first match as a defending champion at a Grand Slam tournament before beating 133rd-ranked wild-card entry Maddison Inglis 7-5 6-4, top-ranked Ash Barty dominated in her first Grand Slam match in more than a year, dropping only 10 points in a 6-0 6-0 rout of Danka Kovinic.
Barty lost to Kenin in the semifinals last year and then skipped the US Open and her title defense at the French Open because she stayed in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After her 44-minute opener on Rod Laver Arena, Barty said she’d missed tennis “every single day” during her time away from the sport.

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