Nadal loses first match of the year in Melbourne

Nadal loses first match of the year in Melbourne

He returns to the Australian Open, where he lost a thrilling five-set final to long-time rival Roger Federer in 2017, after overcoming his chronic knee problems just in time and hoping to continue last year's progress under new coach Carlos Moya.

"I increased my serve by several kilometres per hour and I think I did better overall with my second than first, and I can say I won some points nearly for free as a result", Nadal said in an interview with Spanish daily AS in December. "I had a heavy year in 2017 and I started my preparation later than usual".

"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 addition of both Novak and Rafa changes our schedule and the way we will run the four days but that's what Kooyong is all about, we are here to help the players get ready for the Open", said tournament director Peter Johnston.

The 16-time Grand Slam victor was far from his best in the exhibition encounter against a player he has beaten 15-0 on the ATP Tour in a rivalry dating back to junior days.

"Federer's very special, what he did was incredible having six months off, coming back and winning his first event which happened to be a grand slam, the Australian Open". "The knee is fine", he said in answer to the inevitable question. "But here I arrive in plenty of time and it's a good day to start feeling again. of playing a match", Nadal said in an on-court interview following the match.

"I'll train hard over the next few days for the Australian Open, I will be ready".

Gasquet, who missed Kooyong previous year through illness and injury, was happy to get even an informal win over the Spaniard. I won't put extra pressure on myself, regardless of who's going to play, or not play. "Because obviously I'm playing well under pressure and in pressure situations", said Kyrgios, whose talent has often been undermined by petulant outbursts.

Gasquet took the opening set, relying on a single break for 5-4 before serving it out against an opponent still trying to shake off the rust of inactivity.

Nadal trailed Gasquet 3-0 in the second set after going down a double break but clawed his way back to lead 5-4 only to lose his serve again.

Gasquet forced Nadal to save break points throughout as the pair stayed level-pegging.

The upcoming edition will feature five of the world's top 10, including ATP Finals runner-up and two-time Kooyong champion David Goffin, Austrian Dominic Thiem, Croat Marin Cilic and Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.

In the women's competition, Germany's Andrea Petkovic rallied to defeat Australian teenager Destanee Aiava 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in windy conditions.

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