Sunday, July 14, 2024

Nadal back in groove on grass, Murray labours


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LONDON: Rafa Nadal swapped clay for grass but the result was just as emphatic with the world number one overpowering Australia’s Matthew Ebden at the Queen’s Club championships on a chilly evening in west London on Thursday.

The reigning Wimbledon champion, fresh from his record-equalling sixth French Open title, beat gallant qualifier Ebden 6-4 6-4 to move into the third round after Britain’s Andy Murray, the second seed, won a three-setter with Xavier Malisse.

Top seed Nadal, who passed the time with some table football in the players’ lounge as rain delayed his opening singles match, unleashed some trademark forehand firepower on the 168th-ranked Ebden who provided an ideal test.

”It’s never easy to start the grasscourt season but I’m here with a lot of motivation,” the 25-year-old Nadal said courtside after being mobbed for his autograph at the exclusive club.

”Everything is different and especially because I had just one day to adapt my game. I’m a bit tired after a very difficult claycourt season but I’m happy to be in the next round,” added the Spaniard who next plays Czech Radek Stepanek.

Just five days after losing to Nadal in the French Open semi-finals on clay, Britain’s world number four Murray made a stuttering start, beating Belgian Malisse 6-3 5-7 6-3 in a match played in two chunks either side of a lengthy rain break.

Second seed Murray, the 2009 champion at the most traditional of English venues, lost his way at the end of the second set but hit back to reach the third round.

With Wimbledon looming, the 24-year-old Scot showed no obvious signs of discomfort from the right ankle he rolled painfully in his third round win at the French Open against Germany’s Michael Berrer — good news when you carry the weight of British hopes on your shoulders.

”That was really the first true test on the grass to put it through,” Murray told reporters in a news conference that sounded more like a physiotherapy lecture as the Scot was quizzed on the small tear in one of his tendons. (Reuters)


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