Rafa shines in Brisbane victory

Rafael Nadal has started his preparations for the Australian Open in impressive fashion with a ruthless victory over Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Brisbane International.

The 14-time grand slam champion took just 74 minutes to cruise past former Brisbane finalist Dolgopolov 6-3 6-3 and show he’ll once again be among the leading contenders at Melbourne Park.

A jet-lagged Nadal didn’t have it all his own way as the world No.62 played aggressively from the outset and fired off a number of flat winners to break the former world No.1 in the fourth game.

But the Spaniard, currently ranked ninth after battling knee and wrist injuries last year, didn’t let the early scare bother him as he reeled off the next five games to take the opening set.

He fed off the Ukrainian’s power and proved too classy and consistent, much to the delight of a sold-out Pat Rafter Arena crowd.

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Dolgopolov hit 18 winners to six but Nadal committed just nine unforced errors compared to his rival’s 32.

“I was very happy with that start,” said Nadal, who only arrived 36 hours before. “Winning against (Dolgopolov) is never easy.”

Nadal, seeded fifth in his Brisbane debut, will now meet German stalwart Mischa Zverev in the second round after the world No.51 also recorded a 6-3 6-3 scoreline on Tuesday night to beat Australian teenager Alex De Minaur.

Victory there will likely set up a mouth-watering quarter-final against top seed and defending champion Milos Raonic.

The pair played each other last week, with Nadal, now coached by compatriot Carlos Moya, winning 6-1 3-6 6-3 as he swept through to win the Abu Dhabi exhibition series.

“Playing those matches in Abu Dhabi was good for my confidence,” he said.

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