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Rafael Nadal overcomes distractions for win in Australian opener

January 16, 2012 | 11:43 am

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal made news on the eve of the Australian Open for his sharp criticism of Roger Federer. The next morning he nearly dropped out of the first Grand Slam event because of a sudden and very painful tendon problem in his right knee.

But it was business as usual after he got going on the court. The Spaniard had no problem defeating Alex Kuznetsov of the U.S., 6-4, 6-1, 6-1, even with a heavily taped knee.

Nadal said he really doesn't understand how the injury occurred.

“I was sitting on a chair in the hotel, I felt like a crack on the knee … really strange,” Nadal said. “I stand up. I felt the knee a little bit strange. I moved the leg like this two times to try to find the feeling. After the second time, the knee stays with an unbelievable pain completely straight. I have no movement on the knee.”

The 10-time Grand Slam champion considered forfeiting the match but decided to give it a shot after an MRI exam showed no major damage.

“I started with a little bit of a scare at the beginning, and nervous because I was really disappointed yesterday,” Nadal said. “But after the first 10 games … I started to play with normal conditions."

With the win Nadal advanced to the second round, as did Federer, who defeated Alexander Kudryavtsev, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. Nadal and Federer said there is no rift between them, despite Nadal's criticism of Federer a day earlier for not publicly speaking out in support of changes in scheduling and prize money.

“Things are fine between us, you know. I have no hard feelings towards him,” Federer said. “It's been a difficult last few months in terms of politics within the ATP.”

Nadal said: “I always had fantastic relationship with Roger. I still have fantastic relationship with Roger. Just I said we can have different views about how the tour needs to work. That's all.”


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 -- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Rafael Nadal hits a return against Alex Kuznetsov. Credit: Torsten Blackwood / AFP / Getty Images