Rafael Nadal strolled through his first match of 2018 in a contest akin to a short practise session for the world number one.
It was hard to assess the true state of the Spaniard’s game as he swept aside world number 79 Victor Estrella Burgos 6-1 6-1 6-1 in the opening round of the Australian Open.
Nadal, who struggled with a knee injury at the end of last year and was forced to pull out of the Brisbane International earlier this month, had a spring in his step and struck the ball cleanly but was never tested by his 37-year-old opponent on the Rod Laver Arena.
Next up is Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, who took a set off Nadal at the US Open last year, and that should give us a better indication about Nadal’s game at the first major of the year.
Perfect matchup for the Spaniard
The result was never in doubt here, though, and in truth it was the perfect matchup for the 16-time Grand Slam champion.
Estrella Burgos is a dogged fighter but has only made it past the first round of a major once, with his best results coming on clay.
He hits the ball with a lot of topspin, plays with a single-handed backhand and has no major weapons to trouble Nadal.
The first set lasted a paltry 22 minutes, 20 of which Estrella Burgos was scrapping for his first game of the match.
At 5-0 down, the world number 79 finally held his serve, before Nadal closed out the opener with a deft drop shot in the following game.
Nadal flexes his muscle
Such was the one-sidedness of the contest, one of the most noticeable features was Nadal’s choice of attire, with the Spaniard reverting to the sleeveless muscle top that he became renowned for a decade ago.
Unsurprisingly, his intensity rarely dropped, and Nadal cruised into a 5-0 lead in the second set.
That wasn’t to say Estrella Burgos wasn’t trying, in fact the man from the Dominican Republic was fighting remarkably hard just to win points.
The highlight of the match came in the sixth game of the second set when Estrella Burgos earned his first break point. Ten minutes later, he converted at the fifth time of asking, prompting a light-hearted cheer from the Rod Laver crowd.
It only delayed the inevitable, though, and normality was quickly resumed as Nadal closed out the match in an hour and 34 minutes.