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Nadal vs Duckworth Australian Open live streaming, preview and tips - Nadal plays first official match since September against wildcard Duckworth

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 12 Jan 2019
  • Rafael Nadal vs James Duckworth is live from Melbourne Park around 12.30pm local time on Monday (1.30am GMT)
  • First meeting between the pair
Rafael Nadal (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a second Australian Open title on Monday against Australian wildcard James Duckworth.

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Second seed and 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal plays his first competitive match since the U.S. Open semi-finals in September when he squares off against local wildcard James Duckworth in the opening round inside Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

As is unfortunately too often the case these days, a lot of uncertainty surrounding the health and fitness of Nadal as the 17-time major champion embarks on a 14th Australian Open campaign this fortnight. The 32-year-old has endured some heartbreaking times in Melbourne since debuting in 2004, missing the 2006 and 2013 editions, finishing runner-up in 2012 in an epic six-hour final against Novak Djokovic (along with two more second-places in 2014, where a back injury surfaced against Stan Wawrinka, and 2017), while he also retired in 2010 against Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and was hindered by a knee injury at the same stage the following year against David Ferrer. Nadal also retired in last year’s tournament in the quarter-finals against Marin Cilic. Nadal’s lone title in Melbourne came in 2009 when he beat Fernando Verdasco and Roger Federer in back-to-back five-set thrillers in the semi-finals and final.

But the man who somehow rose above fatigue to win that title in stunning circumstances a decade ago appears long gone - at least on hardcourts. Indeed, Nadal has retired or withdrawn from 17 out of his last 18 hardcourt tournaments, retiring at the Australian Open and U.S. Open last season and withdrawing from 10 others, while he also missed the last three hardcourt events of the 2017 season and the Brisbane International at the start of this year.

With those numbers in the bank, it’s hard to see Nadal adding to his 17 Grand Slam titles in Melbourne this year. On course for a third round blockbuster against home hope and recently crowned Sydney champion Alex de Minaur, a quarter-final showdown against Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson and a possible semi-final with defending champion Roger Federer (before a likely final against Novak Djokovic), you’ve got to have doubts as to whether Nadal can handle matches of that magnitude back-to-back.

Nevertheless, Nadal has a champions attitude and won’t be going down without a fight - and he still believes he has what it takes to make an impact in Melbourne over the next fortnight despite not playing a professional match since retiring against Juan Martin del Potro in September’s U.S. Open semi-finals.

“Even if a lot of days you go on court when you have troubles or you go to the gym without having a real goal or without knowing why I am going there, because I don't see a benefit on this day, you keep going,” Nadal said.
“That's the only way that you can keep having confidence and hope for a good comeback in terms of health. I know sometimes it’s hard mentally. It’s tough when you have one thing, then another thing.
“But I know that tennis is not forever. I want to do it as long as I can and give myself the best possibilities to fight for the things really I am passionate about.”

Meanwhile, while Nadal has endured a torrid time with injuries, so has his opponent in the opening round on Monday.

James Duckworth (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
You won’t find many more players who have endured what James Duckworth has over the last two years. After breaking into the top 100 in 2015, Duckworth began to experienced several niggling injury concerns - and then everything took a deep turn for the worse after the 2017 Australian Open, with the 26-year-old forced to undergo five surgeries over the last two years - three on his foot, one on his shoulder and another on his elbow. He also broke his wrist doing sprint training in 2016 - the same season he tore a flexor tendon in his elbow.

Duckworth’s latest foot and elbow surgeries last January kept him off the tour until the French Open - and from there, his back luck has continued, with the Australian drawing Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray and now Nadal in the opening round of his last four slams.

Ranked outside the top 1,000 when he returned to the tour at the French Open, Duckworth has worked his way back up to a current mark of No. 238, helped by a run to the Round of 16 at the ATP 500 Citi Open and a title at the Cary Challenger in the USA, coming from qualifying before beating five Americans on his way to the silverware, including Reilly Opelka in the final. Duckworth also made the semi-finals of Tiburon before rounding off the season by defeating Luke Saville in the Australian Open wildcard play-off to earn his spot in the main draw.

Duckworth has made the second round of the Australian Open on three occasions (he lost in the opening rounds of Brisbane and Sydney coming into Melbourne Park this year), but he’ll have to play the match of his life to have a chance of doing so again on Monday. The Aussie has a solid game and a strong kick serve, but he will have to be more aggressive than usual and really step into the court and take the match to Nadal if he is too even take a set. There is a chance Nadal will be rusty in his first official match in four months, but Duckworth isn’t really the type of player (flat hitter with a booming serve) that can consistently trouble Nadal in baseline exchanges. It might be tough at times in his first match, but I expect Nadal to advance fairly comfortably into the second round.

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Nadal vs Duckworth Australian Open live streaming, preview and tips - Nadal plays first official match since September against wildcard Duckworth

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a second Australian Open title on Monday against Australian wildcard James Duckworth.

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