AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2014
Nadal Sets Kokkinakis Clash
by ATP Staff|
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal’s eagerly anticipated first-round clash with Bernard Tomic ended in anti-climax as the Australian was forced to retire with a left leg injury after losing the first set 6-4 in the Rod Laver Arena night match.
"It's very tough to go out of a tournament like this when you are playing at home, when you are playing night session with full crowd," said Nadal. "I felt really sorry for Bernard. I was in that situation a few years ago and I know how tough it is to take that decision. But if you feel bad, there is no reason why you have to continue. You put in risk the next tournaments for nothing."
"It's unfortunate," said Tomic. "This opportunity I had to play against Rafa was huge for me. Could have used a lot of it. Unfortunately, I couldn't compete. It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd. I don't think they quite knew what was wrong with me.
"I felt it before when I was warming up. I warmed up well with a left hander. I went for one ball on the backhand and just felt it. It's tough playing Rafa with two legs, let alone one. Nothing I could do."
Nadal was back on centre court for the first time since his epic 2012 final against Novak Djokovic, having been forced to miss the Australian Open last year due to illness. The 27-year-old Spaniard returned to the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings after a staggering comeback last year, winning the Roland Garros and US Open titles.
"First of all, it is fantastic news to be back here in this great tournament after missing last year," said Nadal. "I missed a lot being here. It's a place that I really love so much. I enjoy a lot being here in this city."
The left-hander is chasing his 14th major title in Melbourne and has a 6-0 match record in 2014, having opened his campaign with victory at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha (d. Monfils).
Nadal goes on to face 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Australian, ranked World No. 570, defeated Igor Sijsling 7-6(4), 0-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 on his Grand Slam debut. Last year, the right-handed Kokkinakis reached the final of the boys’ singles at both the Australian Open and the US Open.
"I practised with him in the past," said Nadal. "I met him the other day in the Babolat event. He has a great future and will be a very tough match for me if I am not able to play my best. I am going to try to play well."
Kokkinakis said, "I think I've had a couple good experiences, qualifying in Brisbane playing Lleyton [Hewitt] on that big centre court there. I think it was all a good experience for me, just building up to play these moments.
"I'm really happy I will have played two of the greatest players to play the game. I'm playing Nadal in a couple days' time. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'll go out there to win."
Gael Monfils, also advanced, defeating Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 51 minutes. The Frenchman has a 15-8 match record in Melbourne, reaching the fourth round in 2009 (l. to Simon). He goes on to face American Jack Sock, who fought past Tobias Kamke 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.
French No. 18 seed Gilles Simon saved seven match points in a marathon 6-7(4), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 16-14 win over Daniel Brands. In the match lasting four hours and 32 minutes, Simon rallied from 15/40 and three advantages down at 9-10 in the fifth set and again recovered from 15/40 at 13-14. He broke Brands at 14-14 before serving out victory.