Match Report

'Showtime' Rafa rolls into Brisbane QFs

Spaniard produces stunning backhand smash in Kubler victory
January 04, 2024
Rafael Nadal in action against Jason Kubler on Thursday at the Brisbane International presented by Evie. By ATP Staff

Rafael Nadal’s ATP Tour comeback moved on stylishly and seamlessly Thursday at the Brisbane International presented by Evie.

After a rock-solid opening victory against Dominic Thiem at the hard-court ATP 250, the Spaniard picked up where he left off by dismantling Australia’s Jason Kubler 6-1, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals. Nadal, who had not played a competitive match for nearly 12 months due to injury prior to this week in Brisbane, continued to move impressively around the court as he powered past Kubler in 83 minutes.

“I think I started the match playing very well, with a very good determination,” said Nadal in his on-court interview. “I saw videos of Jason before the match and I saw him playing very solidly from the baseline, so I came on court and tried to be aggressive with my shots from the baseline.

“It worked very well. I think it was a very positive match for me and the chance to play again tomorrow means a lot to me. Two victories after a long time being outside of the professional Tour is something that makes me feel good.”

The 92-time tour-level titlist won 12 of the first 13 points in his maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head clash with Kubler and barely looked back thereafter as he booked a last-eight meeting with another home favourite, Jordan Thompson. Nadal, whose highlights against Kubler included a stunning backhand smash that simultaneously showcased high-class agility and timing, will step on court against the World No. 55 Thompson having won 10 of his past 11 tour-level matches against Australian opponents.

“I need matches, I need health, I need to keep practising well and of course the past two matches here help, and even the doubles on the first day,” said Nadal, who has hinted that 2024 may be the final season of his career. “Of course, victories and hours spent on court help. For me, every day that I have the chance to play is great news, so I’m just happy for that, happy that I came back after a long time and feel competitive. Let’s see how far I can go.”

Nadal’s lightning-fast start gave Kubler, the No. 102 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, little time to settle inside Pat Rafter Arena, and the Australian appeared hampered by an issue with his right arm, for which he received treatment from the physio both during and after the first set. Nadal trailed 0/40 when serving at 5-1 but he recovered to seal an opener in which he dropped just five points on serve.

With is heavy whipped lefty forehand forcing Kubler to deal with plenty of high, spinning balls, Nadal continued his charge with his third break of the match in the opening game of the second set. That set the 37-year-old on course to victory and he finished the match having struck 20 winners, including four aces, according to Infosys ATP Stats.

Grigor Dimitrov notched an equally comprehensive second-round triumph on Thursday, when he accelerated past Daniel Altmaier 6-1, 6-2. The second-seeded Dimitrov, who battled past former World No. 1 Andy Murray in three sets in the opening round to become the player with the most wins in tournament history, is now 20-7 at an event where he lifted the trophy in 2017.

The Bulgarian converted four of six break points he earned against Altmaier to advance in 68 minutes. His opponent in his seventh Brisbane quarter-final will be home wild card Rinky Hijikata, who battled past Tomas Machac 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(4).

Read More News View All News

View Related Videos View All Videos


Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store

Premier Partner

Platinum Partners

Gold Partners

Official Ball, Racquet and Tennis Accessory

Official Partners & Suppliers