World number one Rafael Nadal made a rusty return from his injury-layoff as he slumped to a straight sets defeat to veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the exhibition event at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne on Tuesday.
In November, Nadal had announced the withdrawal from the ATP World Tour Finals citing a knee injury, which also forced him to subsequently pull out of Paris Masters.
The Spaniard was then scheduled to return to court in the season-opening Brisbane International starting on January 1, but he withdrew from that as well.
Playing his second match in almost three months and first of the year, Nadal went on to suffer a 4-6, 5-7 defeat to Gasquet in a one-sided clash.
Despite losing in straight sets, Nadal said that he would keep practising hard until the start of the first major of the season, Australian Open.
“It was a good test for me and good practice.
I’m good and I am here so that’s good news and my idea is just to keep practising the next couple of days to be ready for the beginning of the Australian Open,” the Guardian quoted Nadal, as saying.
Nadal, who admitted to have started his preparation a little bit later than usual because of a long last year, will round out his preparation this week in the Tie Break Tens in Melbourne alongside Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, France’s Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios of Australia.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion will aim to clinch his second Australian Open title when the tournament gets underway at Melbourne Park starting on January 15.