Rafael Nadal is confident that the knee injury that ended his 2017 season prematurely will be okay for him to play at the Australian Open after being defeated by Richard Gasquet at the 2018 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic.
The world No. 1 from Spain lost to the Frenchman for the first time in his career, succumbing 4-6 5-7 in his first competitive match since withdrawing from the ATP Finals last November due to a right knee injury.
“Yeah, I’m very happy to be in Australia again first of all,” Nadal told Channel 7 on court after the match”
“I had a long year last year, so I had to start my preparation later than usual, but I’ve arrived with plenty of time and it’s a good day to start again the feelings of playing a match.
“It’s not an official match but still a test for me and good practice, that’s the most important thing, that’s the most important thing for the whole season.”
The 31-year-old, who has won 16 Grand Slam titles, won the French and US Opens last year but again battled through ongoing knee pain that has been a constant factor throughout his career.
“I am good, if I am here, and if I wasn’t feeling good I would not be here, so that’s good news,” Nadal added.
“So, I just need to keep practicing hard the next couple of days to be ready for the Australian Open.”
Gasquet by far looked the sharper of the pair in testing conditions with Melbourne producing some gusty winds for players on the first day of play in the tournament’s 30th anniversary.
The 31-year-old former world No. 7 from 2007, who was a French Open quarterfinalist in 2016, was satisfied with how he moved on the court ahead of the year’s first major tournament.
“Yeah, it’s always important to play these matches even if it’s not official,” the Frenchman said.
“It’s still a great match with many people in the crowd and it’s great for me to practice here, I have no injuries on the court and I am preparing well for Melbourne… I’m feeling 100 per cent and I’ll try my best to play well there.”
It was the first time Gasquet had taken a set from Nadal in 10 years, and although it was obvious the Spaniard needed match practice ahead of the Open the Frenchman did not think he was playing injured.
“Of course, it’s always nice to play him and to play well,” Gasquet said.
“He needs matches and needs to play but I’m feeling great and played well so it’s always nice to play matches like that.
“It’s great for the tournament that Rafa can come here.”
Photos: Getty Images; AFP; EPA; Stringer Image
• Post-match interview
• Full match