Rafael Nadal Earns Straight-Sets Win over Laslo Djere at 2021 Australian Open

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2021

Spain's Rafael Nadal makes a forehand return to Serbia's Laslo Djere during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Rafael Nadal opened his 2021 Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Laslo Djere in the first round Tuesday in Melbourne.  

In the weeks leading up to the tournament, the focus was on the 14-day quarantine period players had to fulfill before they were cleared to compete.

"I was not able to practice the right way the last week and a half," Nadal told reporters Sunday. "I'm still not having the best feeling possible in my back, but I am practicing again. I did a lot of things to recover. It's not serious, but the muscle is still tight, so it's difficult to play with freedom of movement."

The disruption to his training didn't cost Nadal in his first match of the season.

Building a 5-1 lead helped him take the opening set, but the gap between the two players wasn't all that wide. Nadal had five winners and 13 unforced errors to seven and 12, respectively, for Djere.

Tennis Channel @TennisChannel

Laslo Djere out here keeping things interesting. 😏 #AusOpen https://t.co/sZ7ifsgqxe

The 2009 Australian Open champion was merely getting warmed up. He failed to capitalize on three break-point opportunities in the first game of the second set before breaking Djere's serve in the third game.

Djere occasionally flashed impressive power from the baseline, especially with his forehand. Whether going down the line or across the court, the 25-year-old left Nadal powerless to respond when he caught the ball flush.

Those moments were far too infrequent for Djere to seriously threaten the upset.

Things briefly got a bit dicey as Nadal looked to close out the second set. Serving at 5-4, he quickly fell behind 15-40 and needed to stave off three break-point chances before claiming a commanding two-set advantage.

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

That two sets to love lead fist pump 💪 @RafaelNadal closes out the second set 6-4 against Laslo Djere. #AO2021 | #AusOpen https://t.co/gSMhNE7EWC

Nadal didn't encounter that kind of trouble in the third set after once again using two service breaks to go ahead 5-1. Djere was reduced to throwing his hands up in exasperation after a series of incredible forehands from the 20-time Grand Slam winner eluded him.

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*Chef's kiss* 🤌 @RafaelNadal | #AusOpen https://t.co/7x5nCUKwsz

Two statistics were somewhat telling.

According to the Australian Open's official site, Nadal won 58 of 94 short rallies and 16 of 25 long rallies. Djere wasn't putting the Spaniard away early in points with regularity, nor was he enjoying any more luck when points were extended.

This certainly wasn't Nadal at his best, a standard that shouldn't have been expected under the circumstances. The 34-year-old will need at least a match or two to get into a groove.

Picking up a relatively straightforward win over a game challenger was a good way for him to start his tournament.


What's Next?

Nadal will play Michael Mmoh or Viktor Troicki in the second round.