20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has picked up a trophy upon his return to the tour after winning the Melbourne Summer Set.
The Spaniard was forced to fight hard but eventually found his groove to overcome the impressive American Maxime Cressy 7-6(6), 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
The trophy marks a welcome return to the tour for Nadal who has been sidelined since August with an ongoing foot injury, as well as contracting COVID-19 late in 2021.
“Of course very happy to start the season with a title. It's another season at least winning a title, and coming from where we are coming, it's very special, so super happy for that,” Nadal said in his press conference.
“Tonight I think I played my best match so far since I arrived here, without a doubt, against a very difficult player to play against. Yeah, it's a positive start.”
There were definitely signs of rust for the former World No. 1 throughout the tournament and he wasn’t overly challenged in terms of his opponents. However, there were times when he was at his signature best and a trophy in his first tournament back will certainly fire a warning shot across the bow of his competition.
Nadal was forced to combat something rarely seen in the modern game, the serve-volley tactics employed by Cressy.
“He's going to be a very uncomfortable player for every opponent, for the top opponents, for the lower-ranking opponents,” Nadal said of Cressy.
“I mean, he went up very fast on the ranking. Probably when somebody does his improvement in a very short period of time, it's because his level is much higher than what his ranking says today.
“I'm sure that on hard, indoor, grass, he can be a very dangerous player, and I am really sure that if he's mentally prepared - I don't know him, he looks quite nice and humble and professional - so if he's able to stay focused and do what he has to do, he's going to be much higher on the ranking at the end of the season without a doubt.”
The tactics certainly seemed to work at stages in the first set for Cressy but the Spaniard was able to work his way through it. Lucky he possesses the ability to make unbelievable passing shots.
Nadal was smoking them off the racquet, a sight that will worry the rest of the Australian Open field. The World No. 6 amassed a quality 33 winners and nine aces for the match while limiting his unforced errors to just seven.
Nadal will now put his feet up until the Australian Open starts as he is not participating in the Sydney Classic or the Adelaide International 2.