Rafael Nadal's a smash hit on return to grass as he sends SW19 warning

Rafael Nadal is a smash hit on his return to grass ahead of Wimbledon as the Spaniard sends a powerful warning three years after his last SW19 appearance with confident straight sets win against Stan Wawrinka

  • Rafael Nadal was finally back on grass three years after his last appearance on it
  • Nadal looks deadly serious about the third leg of his calendar Grand Slam bid 
  • He hammered fellow French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2 in Fulham
  • Playing on the stately lawns of the Hurlingham Club, Nadal looked convincing 

It had taken three years, but Rafael Nadal was back on a grass court on Wednesday and looking deadly serious about the third leg of his calendar Grand Slam bid.

Nadal took to the stately lawns of Fulham’s Hurlingham Club for a match at the Giorgio Armani Classic, and hammered his fellow French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2.

‘I haven’t been able to play on grass through tough moments we went through with the pandemic and last year I got injured so I am excited to be back,’ he told a tightly packed crowd of 1,500.

Rafael Nadal (above) looks deadly serious about the third leg of his calendar Grand Slam bid

He beat Stan Wawrinka (above left) 6-2, 6-2 at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham on Wednesday

It was Nadal’s first match on grass for three years – and he looked good ahead of Wimbledon

Equally convincing was Wimbledon’s defending champion Novak Djokovic, another who has opted for rest and more gentle preparation for the big fortnight.

These occasions are some way short of full-blooded competition, but Nadal still looked extremely sharp with no sign that the most famous foot in tennis is giving him trouble.

The last time he properly stepped on the turf was when Roger Federer beat him in the 2019 semi-finals — what may yet go down as the last time the two great rivals faced each other. 

Nadal moved on Wednesday almost as if he had never been away, and his timing was on from the start. 

It is difficult to believe that Nadal would have travelled to London unless he thinks he is a serious contender for SW19, and it certainly looked that way.

Wawrinka, three times a Grand Slam champion himself, was left in no doubt about the Spaniard’s intentions. 

‘Playing Rafa is always difficult, he is in full confidence right now,’ said the Swiss.

‘I don’t know how he is feeling, it looks like normal Rafa. 

‘He has been saying he is feeling better and if he is playing, he is ready to play his best and to win.

‘Any time he enters a Grand Slam he is going to be one of the favourites, if not the favourite. He won the first two Slams of the year without too many matches before those, so of course he is part of the favourites.’ 

Serbian star Novak Djokovic looked similarly sharp as he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-1

Djokovic looked similarly sharp as he defeated Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-1, showing few signs of ring rust having taken a break following his quarter-final defeat in Paris.

On this limited evidence, there appears to be no reason to disbelieve the bookies, who have Djokovic and Nadal in their top-three favourites for the title, split by Queen’s champion and last year’s finalist Matteo Berrettini.

Wawrinka has also been practising with outside bet Andy Murray, who he reported was hitting at a high level. 

Wawrinka has been practising with Brit Andy Murray, who he said was hitting at a high level

The 35-year-old Scot is one of the many names at Wimbledon this year going in with uncertain fitness, but he is said to have been able to resume serving in the past couple of days.

It is an encouraging sign, given that had been Murray’s biggest concern with his abdominal problem.

Emma Raducanu was also practising again at Wimbledon, for the fourth successive day. Serving is also the issue with her, given that she has a similar side strain. 

British teenager Emma Raducanu is hoping to be fit for SW19 as she battles a side strain injury

She was serving gently on Wednesday as she tries to ensure she can compete without having to pull out of another match.

The draw is being made on Friday morning, and ideally she can make a decisive call before then, but Wimbledon is likely to allow her as much time as she needs to make a decision.

Nick Kyrgios joined the long list of those whose Wimbledon participation is in doubt when he pulled out of this week’s Mallorca Open. The Australian is another citing an abdominal injury, but hopes to be able to play at the All England Club.  

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