Sydney, Jan 8: Injury-plagued world number two Rafael Nadal insists he is healthy and in no pain after coming through an exhibition game in Sydney, just days after pulling out of the Brisbane International. The Spaniard teamed up with Canadian Milos Raonic to defeat Australians Nick Kyrgios and John Millman in the FAST4 Showdown on Monday evening -- a shortened, quicker format of the game often described as the tennis equivalent of Twenty20 cricket.
Nadal said that he was "feeling better" after withdrawing from Brisbane, when an MRI revealed a slight strain of his left thigh, casting doubts over his fitness for next week's Australian Open. "I did not feel the pain here," the 17-time Grand Slam champion said. "I think it was a good start for me, a good comeback to the action in front of a fantastic crowd in Sydney. "I really enjoyed playing here. I'm happy to be back on court and happy that I'm healthy again."
Nadal has not played a main tour event since a knee problem forced him to retire during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro in September. The 32-year-old had surgery on his ankle in November to remove a loose intra-articular body and only resumed training a month ago. He played the opening round at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi to start his season, where he lost to South African Kevin Anderson, and had a first round bye in Brisbane before withdrawing ahead of the second round.
Asked by reporters if he considered himself a genuine title contender in Melbourne despite his injury problems, he replied: "Why not?" "You can't predict that. Of course it would be better if I had the chance to play a full tournament in Abu Dhabi and a full tournament in Brisbane, but the big importance is I am feeling good with the ball. The only thing is that I didn't play matches since a long time ago." Nadal will now head to Melbourne, where he was the champion in 2009, to get in as much practice as possible before the opening Grand Slam of the year begins on Monday.