Rafael Nadal has sent a message out to his opponents, a very different message to the one Federer sent out yesterday. Nadal dismissed Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, proving his fitness, form and intent when he stepped onto center court. Nadal threw down 8 aces throughout the match, a high number for the Spaniard who’s not known for his serving prowess, more for his deadly spin. Nadal’s spin was on display as Rafa’s balls seemed to somehow always find the line as he thumped the ball and pushed his opponent around the court.
Nadal played an impressive match, breaking Nishikori in the opening game of the first set when his opponent had been at 40-0.
The second set saw a more aggressive Nishikori step out, facilitated by an improved first serve percentage, however he simply did not have the power to trouble Nadal. A double fault, followed by a shanked forehand gave Nadal a chance and a break in the 9th game after the Spaniard made a strong push with Nishikori serving at 40-15. After pummeling a deep forehand cross court Nadal skipped and jogged to his chair after claiming the second set.
In the 5th game of the third set Nishikori got his third break point chance, his first since the first set. Kei managed to wrong foot Rafa, with Nadal slipping and landing in almost the same position as when he won the Wimbledon title in 2008 before he quickly rolled away to get out of the way of his racket as it came back down to earth. Nishikori leveled at 3-3. Nadal went down again in the next game as he slid into a ball, but eventually Nadal still managed to break to resume his lead in the third set.
When Nadal found his way to double match point, he faulted but was awarded a first serve when Nishikori’s vibration dampener flew off his racket. Rafa sealed the match with a smash in a little bit over 2 hours.
“It’s always special to play on this court. I’m very happy to come back to this tournament and play in probably the most beautiful and emblematic court in the world. I played well. I think I played very good match. To be the first match here, I’m very happy. For me it was very special to come back to the nicest center court in world. To be here is unbelievable, I worked so hard to come back. The crowd here are always amazing so I want to thank them very much, they make me feel like I’m at home all time. It’s amazing to come back.”
On a quick shirt change at the change of ends (after the seconds set) revealed a large (old) scar in the middle of Nadal’s back right next to his spine. A quick Google search indicated Rafa has shingles when he was 10 or 11 and according to a Google transfer he was prescribed a compound from a dermatologist to clear it up, but the prescription was mixed wrongly and he was given sulfuric acid and that scar is from two drops of the acid compound. The would it cause apparently smoked and took a year… Interesting.