Rafa Nadal steps up his quest for a second Australian Open title with a tie against Yannick Hanfmann in Round…
Rafa Nadal steps up his quest for a second Australian Open title with a tie against Yannick Hanfmann in Round Two on Wednesday.
Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, marked his first competitive outing since last August with a commanding straight sets win over America’s Marcos Giron on Monday.
Having won the Barcelona Open and Italian Open last year, Nadal lost an epic Semi-Final to rival Novak Djokovic at the French Open – a result which signalled only his third ever defeat at Roland Garros.
That campaign appeared to take its toll on the Spaniard physically, and he subsequently withdrew from both Wimbledon and the Olympic Games, citing schedule reasons.
Following further injury problems, Nadal withdrew from Toronto and Cincinnati and announced on August 20 that his season was over.
Now, after five months of rest and recuperation, the 35-year-old is back in Grand Slam action at the Australian Open as he looks to mark a sensational return to the winner’s circle.
With Djokovic and Roger Federer both out of action in Melbourne, Nadal is aiming to claim the outright lead in the Grand Slam champion list, with the trio currently locked level on 20 titles apiece.
Since then, he has had to settle for the runner-up spot on four occasions, most recently in 2019, and has reached back-to-back Quarter-Finals in his last two visits Down Under.
The number six seed now faces Hanfmann for only the second time, with the German having seen off Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis in straight sets on Day One.
Hanfmann, 30, is making only his second appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open, with Monday’s victory signalling his first in Grand Slam competition at the seventh attempt.
The world number 126, who won three qualifying matches to get to the main draw, is aiming to pull out what would be a monumental upset against one of the sport’s all-time greats.
The match gets under way from around 2.30am GMT, with either Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi awaiting the winner in the Third Round later in the week.
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