In the opening men’s match on Rod Laver Arena, Rafael Nadal will take on a home favourite in James Duckworth for a spot in the second round of the Australian Open. There are some slight injury worries over Nadal but there are no indications that the Spaniard is ready to withdraw from the tournament at this stage, despite his withdrawal from Brisbane.
Duckworth had a brief stay in the top 100 in 2015 and looked like he was ready for a career of at least being a consistent player on the ATP Challenger Tour. However, he would play just three matches between the start of January 2017 and May 2018 – two of which were at slams. A consistent run of matches in the second half of last year suggest he has potential to come back to the top 100, although he did find it difficult in matches this year as a wildcard at Brisbane and Sydney.
Nadal has not played since retiring two sets down to Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open. He has been nursing a thigh injury, which denied him the opportunity for warm up matches coming into this tournament. “I feel good. If I am not feeling good, I will not be here. I have good feelings in terms of the surgery that I have in the foot. I can say is almost done.” he said at his pre-tournament press conference.
Nadal will also be trying out a new service motion which should be interesting to see. Despite perhaps not hitting the speeds that many top players do, he was always able to have excellent placement on them. “There is always things to improve. Is true that I try to improve during all my career all the things. The serve was always a thing that I tried to improve, and I think I did.” he added.
It should be a routine opener for Nadal, who should be able to ease his way into the tournament and work off any minor issues he has still.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets