Nadal 'super happy' as Spanish star bounces back with Melbourne win

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Rafael Nadal declared his first singles match on the ATP Tour for five months a roaring success after the Spaniard battled past Ricardas Berankis in Melbourne.

A 6-2 7-5 win for Nadal over the Lithuanian qualifier carried the 35-year-old into the quarter-finals of the Melbourne Summer Set tournament.

Playing on Rod Laver Arena, the main show court for the upcoming Australian Open, top seed Nadal was tested by Berankis but came through unscathed, breaking serve to love to clinch the victory.

This was the first time that Nadal had faced Berankis, the world number 104 who briefly entered the top 50 five years ago, and it came as the 20-time grand slam winner battles back from the left foot injury that curtailed his 2021 season.

Nadal had not competed on tour since losing to Lloyd Harris in the third round in Washington in August, and the match practice he gained at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last month was followed by him contracting COVID-19.

He is vaccinated though, so was able to travel once he recovered from that brush with coronavirus, and is looking to build up form and fitness before the Australian Open begins.

"Honestly, I've been going through some difficult, challenging moments the last year and a half, but in general terms I'm super happy to be back in competition," Nadal said.

"It's important to start with a victory. It gives me the chance to play another time tomorrow and that's the main thing at this moment because I didn't play for such a long time.

"The main thing is being healthy. That's probably the only thing."

Awaiting Nadal in the last-eight stage will be Dutch player Tallon Griekspoor, who fended off Australia's Alexei Popyrin in three sets.

Determined not to take on too heavy a workload, Nadal has pulled out of the doubles tournament, despite making a winning start on Tuesday when he paired up with fellow Spaniard Jaume Munar.

He elected to play doubles initially to build up some rhythm. "In doubles, things always happen fast," Nadal said. "It makes you feel alive on the tour again. I think that was a positive thing."

Third seed Grigor Dimitrov advanced, seeing off Andy Murray's conqueror Facundo Bagnis in three sets, but Belgian fourth seed David Goffin slumped to a 7-5 6-3 loss against Slovakian Alex Molcan.

At the Adelaide International 1 tournament, there were wins at the last-16 stage for the top three seeds – Gael Monfils, Karen Khachanov and Marin Cilic – but fourth seed Frances Tiafoe was caught out by Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, losing in three sets.

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