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Nadal enjoys victory in comeback at Melbourne Summer Set

 
Melbourne, Jan 6 (IANS) Rafael Nadal won his first singles match in five months on Thursday at the Melbourne Summer Set, where he defeated Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals.

"Super happy to be back in the competition. It's difficult to imagine a better place than here [at] the beginning of the season in Australia," Nadal said. "It's only the first match after a while. Honestly, I have been going through some difficult, challenging moments the past year-and-a-half, but in general terms I am super happy to be back in the competition.

"Of course, it's important to start with a victory, [which] gives me the chance to play another time tomorrow and that's the main thing at this moment because I didn't play for such a long time."

The Spaniard had not played a singles match since the Citi Open last August due to a left foot injury. The 35-year-old returned to action in doubles on Wednesday, when he partnered Jaume Munar to victory.

Nadal hit some bumps as he worked his way back into rhythm, letting slip a break advantage in the second set. But ultimately, the Spaniard was never in trouble and he triumphed after one hour and 32 minutes. He broke at love to close out the match, letting loose one of his trademark fist pumps after striking a final forehand winner.

The top seed won 78 per cent of his first-serve points and claimed 48 per cent of his return points in his first ATP Head2Head clash against Berankis. Nadal will next play Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor or Australian Alexei Popyrin.

After his win, Nadal withdrew from his next doubles match against Andrey Golubev and Franko Skugor due to fatigue.

Earlier, third seed Daria Kasatkina broke a hoodoo against Madison Keys with her first win in eight encounters against the American, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, while second seed Simona Halep secured a Summer Set 1 quarterfinal berth with a routine 6-2, 6-1 victory over doubles partner and compatriot Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

The Romanian, who missed Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympics last season due to a calf injury, booked a showdown with sixth seed Viktorija Golubic.

"Yeah very happy that I could win this match in this way," Halep said. "At the beginning it was a little bit different, so I didn't feel the ball great, but slowly I started to feel the game and I think I was dominating the match."

Slovak Alex Molcan pulled off the biggest upset of the day when he brought down fourth seed David Goffin 7-5 6-3 in 97 minutes. It set a quarterfinal encounter with Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori, an earlier winner over Australian Jordan Thompson 7-6(3) 5-7 6-3.

Meanwhile, third seed Grigor Dimitrov bounced back from the brink to deny Andy Murray's conqueror, Facundo Bagnis, in two hours and 47 minutes.

Bagnis served for the match at 5-4 in the second set before the Bulgarian rallied to advance 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3.

--IANS

--inj