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J. Duckworth (AUS)
R. Nadal (ESP)
|J. Duckworth (AUS)||4||3||5|
|R. Nadal (ESP) ||6||6||7|
|Set won by R. Nadal||5 - 7||R. Nadal leads 0 to 3|
|Set won by R. Nadal||3 - 6||R. Nadal leads 0 to 2|
|Set won by R. Nadal||4 - 6||R. Nadal leads 0 to 1|
2009 champion and world No.2 Rafael Nadal will kick off his Australian Open campaign against forgotten Australian James Duckworth, in a match that will do much to give a gauge of the Spaniard’s fitness. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 12:30pm AEDT.
Rumours of Nadal’s demise as a Grand Slam force have never been far from the surface as far back as 2013, and while the much-loved veteran has silenced the doubters time and again, he will once again head into the year’s first Grand Slam under an injury cloud.
This time it’s a thigh strain which forced him to miss the Brisbane International that will have fans anxious, and when you add it to the abdominal strain that saw him skip the Paris Masters and lose the No.1 ranking to Novak Djokovic, as well as the knee injury which abruptly ended his US Open dream at the semi-final stage, it’s nigh on impossible to judge how the Spaniard’s body will hold up over the next fortnight.
But having returned time and time again from debilitating injuries to resume his standing at the peak of men’s tennis, if anyone can push through the pain barrier, it’s Nadal.
Duckworth too is on the comeback trail, though his rise up the rankings has been a deal slower and more frustrating than any of his opponents returns to form.
After foot surgery cruelled his 2017 season, forcing him out for nearly 12 months, the Aussie made a return to Grand Slam tennis in the latter part of the year, only to fall in the first round at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
However, in between those defeats, the 26-year old managed his first ATP victory in almost two years at the Washington Open in July, as well as winning the Cary Challenger as a qualifier in September.
He’s long been known as a tenacious competitor and has been popular with home fans in his appearances at Melbourne Park in the past, but his form is far from outstanding – his straight-sets loss to Andy Murray at the Brisbane International, in light of the Scot’s emotional press conference and impending retirement, is a worrying sign on its own, let alone heading into a clash with one of the world’s best players.
At his best, or even close to it, Nadal should be far too good here. Duckworth’s only realistic chance is if the Spaniard is still troubled by his thigh injury, which could open the door for an early retirement, or even an upset win. Don’t count on it, though.
Nadal in straight sets
Tune into The Roar’s live blog of this Australian Open first round clash from 12:30pm (AEDT), and remember to leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.
Start Time: 12:30pm (AEDT, approx.)
Venue: Rod Laver Arena
TV: Live, Nine Network
Streaming: Australian Open website
Betting: Nadal $1.06, Duckworth $9.00
Overall Record: Never Played
Rafael Nadal last 10 matches: won 8, lost 2
James Duckworth last 10 matches: won 5, lost 5