By Abigail Hinto
(September 29, 2014) BEIJING – Rafael Nadal was back on the court on Monday for the first time since injuring his right wrist in July to play a doubles match at the China Open. He partnered with Spanish compatriot Pablo Andujar in his return.
The ever enthusiastic crowd of Chinese fans greeted all four singles players, Rafael Nadal and Pablo Andujar versus Tomas Berdych and John Isner, playing their first matches here at the China Open as doubles players with their usual zeal and passion. Along with the return of Rafael Nadal to competition after being out for 3 months with a wrist injury, a first round doubles match brought out a full and noisy crowd to the Moon Court of the Beijing National Tennis Center with numerous Spanish flags swaying with the cool breeze under a hot sun.
Meanwhile, who cares for a team uniform for these singles players when no one bothered to coordinate with their teammates. Andujar, Berdych and Isner were all in white shirts with varying designs with Berdych sporting printed grey and orange shorts. Nadal, on the other hand was the standout in an aquamarine/teal shirt with orange highlights and grey shorts.
As for the match, both the first and second sets were close with only one break each deciding the winner of the sets. Andujar was broken in the first set serving 5-6 down, deuce, when Nadal, eager to win the point for his team crossed for a volley, cut it too close and netted the ball. The second set break came on against Isner’s serve thanks to Andujar’s returning. No wonder Andujar was chosen by the team to receive Isner’s serve when the first game reached the deciding point. Another good return from Andujar and the break was the Spaniards’. Nadal then served out the set for 6-4 but not before facing 2 break back points. A poor return by Berdych off a second serve from Nadal, then another error netting a volley while approaching the net, saw Nadal hold to take the second set.
The match was then decided in a match tiebreak which Berdych and Isner ran away with after being down 1-3 with great plays from both players winning 8 consecutive points until eventually winning the match tiebreak 10-4. Final score: 7-5, 4-6, 10-4.
A fun, competitive atmosphere for these single players who probably played doubles for match practice but definitely went out there to win.
Nadal begins his quest for the singles title Tuesday, when he faces Richard Gasquet in the opening round.
Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.
Photos by Natalie Ho.