MELBOURNE • The absence of “The King of Melbourne Park” hung heavy over the Australian Open for fans of Novak Djokovic as the first Grand Slam of the year yesterday got under way without the ninetime champion and world No. 1.
Rafael Nadal, one of the biggest beneficiaries from the Serb’s absence, launched his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam men’s title in blistering fashion – seemingly putting his recent injury problems behind him.
The Spanish sixth seed, who is vying to break out of a tie for the most Majors alongside Djokovic and the injured Roger Federer, bludgeoned American Marcos Giron 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round.
“Twelve events in two years are not many,” Nadal, who will next take on German Yannick Hanfmann tomorrow, said.
“If we add that I was not able to practise very often, too, it’s a really tough one. But here I am. I am super happy about all the work that we have done to be back... We’re going to keep trying hard.
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