Nadal Set To Return After Injury Layoff.
After an extended layoff, Rafael Nadal on Friday returned to competitive tennis. The world No. 1 had been inactive since Jan. 23 when he retired with a leg injury from his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic, but showed little signs of rust upon dismantling Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2 6-2 6-3 to even five-time Davis Cup champion Spain with Germany, 1-1.
Nadal's win was a record 23rd in a row in Davis Cup competition. The victory sets him up for a big test Sunday against No. 4 Alexander Zverev.
"It's positive of course, winning in straight sets, it was a solid match. I feel comfortable back on the clay," Nadal said after the match at the Plaza de Toros bullring in Valencia.
Nadal has a 3-0 record against 20-year-old Zverev, who is arguably the best young player on the ATP Tour. In their last meeting, Nadal cruised to a 6-1 6-1 third-round win at the 2017 Monte Carlo Masters - a tournament played on clay. The other two meetings were on hardcourt.
There had been questions as to when Nadal would return to the court. He is considered a heavy favorite for next month's French Open, but there was previous uncertainty as to when he might start some tune-up matches. Nadal stressed to reporters that he felt no problems with his hip.
"It's a great feeling to be back," the 31-year-old said. "Coming back from injuries is always difficult. But it's great to be in front of my crowd on a very memorable day. I'm very happy with the match."
Nadal owns just a slim 100-point lead on No. 2 Roger Federer in the ATP Rankings. Nadal has 8,770 points, while the Swiss star has 8,670.
Federer announced after his early defeat at the Miami Open in March that he would skip the clay-court season.