RAFAEL CONTINUED his best career before the ATP Tour season with a win Tuesday in his first match after winning the Australian Open title by reaching the second round of the Mexican Open.
The 35-year-old Spanish left-hander defeated American Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-2 and in the 1/16 finals distinguished himself in a tough court with American Stefan Kozlov.
“It was a positive start, a good win in sets in a row. It is always very favorable for confidence, ”Nadal said.
“I played a very solid match, I worked well today. Sure, there are a few things I can do better, but overall I played well, so I can’t complain. ”
The win has lifted Nadal to 11-0 this year, in line with his best career start of any season. He also won 11 matches in a row to start the 2014 campaign before losing to Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open final.
Nadal won his men’s 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month, beating his career mark of 20 helmet crowns, which he shared with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
World number five Nadal broke Kudla, who is ranked 100th in the fourth game, leading 3-1, and from there took the first set in his first career meeting.
When Kudla gave a forehand to pass the first break in the second set, Nadal seized the lead with a score of 2-1 and held on in love 3-1.
Nadal again lost 4-1 and held on twice more, winning the forehand.
Fourth seed Nadal missed eight aces and scored 36 of 40 points on his serve in the dominant game.
The Spaniard is aiming for his 91st ATP career champion and third of the year, also winning a helmet tournament in Melbourne.
Russia’s Daniel Medvedev, the reigning champion of the US Open, whom Nadal beat in five sets in the Australian Open final, began his session at number one in the world rankings with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Frenchman Benoit Piraeus.
“It is always difficult to return after rest and relaxation,” said Medvedev. “I felt that today my feelings were not up to par, but I managed to fight to the end with a very tough opponent, and I am happy that I managed to win.”
If Medvedev wins the Acapulco title, he is confident he will overtake Djokovic at the top of the rankings, regardless of how the Serbian star will be this week in Dubai.
“If Novak hadn’t played, maybe it would have been a little more in my mind, because it’s up to me what I can do,” Medvedev said.
Medvedev became the 27th player to become the world’s number one, and only the third Russian to join Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1999) and Marat Safin (2000-01).
The last player, apart from Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Briton Andy Murray, who sat at the top of the rankings, was American Andy Roddick in February 2004.
Next, Medvedev will play with the Spaniard, who ranks 68th in the ranking, Pablo Andujar.