Rafael Nadal has dispelled lingering fitness concerns in dispatching local hope James Duckworth in straight sets in the first round of the Australian Open.
Playing his first tour match since the 2018 US Open, the Spanish powerhouse won 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in a match that lasted two hours and 15 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal pulled out of his US Open semi against Juan Martin del Potro due to knee pain before undergoing ankle surgery in November.
"It's not easy to come back after a lot of months ... especially against a player who is playing super-aggressive," Nadal said today.
"It's always very difficult to start after the injuries."
The 17-time major champion had 38 winners and only 11 unforced errors against the luckless Duckworth, who has undergone countless bouts of foot surgery in recent years.
The 26-year-old Australian won last month's Open wildcard playoff to earn his way into the main draw.
But he has now crashed out at the first hurdle at the past four majors, each time to much higher-ranked opponents in Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray and now Nadal.