Following a slightly disappointing ending to his Australian Open run (but all credit to Wawrinka), world No. 1 Rafael Nadal is back on the ATP tour as the top seed at the inaugural Rio Open. The Spaniard will begin his campaign on the Latin American swing with an opening round contest against world No. 84 Daniel Gimeno-Traver. This marks the third time the two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Nadal leading the series with a perfect 2-0 record.
This marks Rafa’s first tournament back since the Australian Open, where he sustained a back injury ahead of the final against Staniaslas Wawrinka. He would go on to lose that final to the Swiss N0. 1 in four sets. A few weeks later, the Spaniard withdrew from the Copa Claro, citing a viral illness that interrupted his preparation for the upcoming clay court season.
Now, Nadal appears to be ready for competition once again and will be looking to work his way to a successful title run in a strong field that includes last week’s Copa Claro finalists David Ferrer and Fabio Fognini. He holds a 24-2 match record at ATP World Tour tournaments in Latin America, including titles last year at Sao Paulo and Acapulco.
Fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver is coming his his strongest performances of the season in his last two tournaments on the ATP tour. The world No. 84 reached the quarter-finals in Vina del Mar, losing to Leonardo Mayer, then followed up with a second round loss to Nicholas Almagro in the second round in Buenos Aires. His Tuesday meeting with Nadal will be his toughest task this season, as he is yet to take a set off the Spaniard in professional competition.
Nadal leads the head-to-head series 2-0, with victories in Barcelona in 2011 and Vina del Mar last season. With all their previous contests taking place on clay courts, it is safe to assume that if Nadal is healthy, he should be considered a heavy favourite to win the match – and likely the title as well.
Check out the Nadal v Gimeno-Traver Head to Head
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets