Spaniard Rafael Nadal got off to a winning start despite injury concerns as he brushed aside his opponent in the opening round at the Australian Open on Monday. The world No.1, a beaten finalist to Roger Federer in Melbourne last year, clinically took apart Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in 94 minutes in the night match on Rod Laver Arena. The Spaniard will play Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the second round. Nadal, who is gunning for a 17th major title, was hampered by a knee injury at the tail-end of the 2017 season.
It forced him to skip the lead-up Brisbane International this month, and he only had a one-match workout at the exhibition Kooyong Classic in Melbourne ahead of the open.
But he said his troublesome right knee felt absolutely fine during his rout of Estrella Burgos.
"It's feeling good," Nadal said. "If I did not feel myself ready I would not be here.
"I am happy to be here and happy to be on court again.
"I always have doubts, but at the same time I have confidence that I was ready to start the tournament and that was the case."
Nadal, who wore no protective strapping on his knee, left nothing to chance with eight service breaks and 28 winners in a complete first-up performance.
It took the 31-year-old Spaniard's Australian Open record to 52-11 as he chases his second Australian title after beating Federer in the 2009 final.
"It's a positive start with a good result. If I do months without playing official match it's always a little bit more difficult," he said.
"But I started with positive feelings. That's most important thing for me now.
"Of course, there are things to improve. But the thing that I need to improve, the matches will give me those things. Victories are the most important thing now."
Nadal needs to reach the quarter-finals to be certain of retaining his world number one ranking after the Australian Open, with Federer breathing down his neck.
The top seed only conceded three games in the match and had few problems with Estrella Burgos, who has a modest 6-15 record at Grand Slams.
Nadal is at his first major tournament in years without his uncle Toni, who coached him from childhood until after his US Open win last year.
Toni Nadal is now coaching at the Rafael Nadal Academy, with his nephew under the tutelage of Carlos Moya.
"Toni was not always in the (player's) box. It's true that in the Grand Slams he was here all the time," Nadal said.
"I cannot think about that all day. I just have to move forward, believe in the team I have. I feel lucky I have Carlos today in my box, and the rest of the team that is a huge support.
"Toni is the most important person in my career," he added.
(With AFP Inputs)