Rafael Nadal was concerned going into his first match at the Madrid Open.
He lost practice time ahead of the tournament because of a stomach virus and didn't know exactly how his body would react when he stepped onto the "Magic Box" center court on Wednesday, 8 May.
But despite the lack of preparation and the physical toll of the illness, Nadal cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the third round in the Spanish capital.
Playing only a few days after falling ill, Nadal lost only four points on his serve in the first set and broke Auger-Aliassime three times in the second.
"I've had this stomach virus for a few days so this was a very important match for me," the second-ranked Spaniard said.
" “I’ve been improving but obviously the body remains a bit debilitated for a while. I’m very happy with the victory. It was very important.”" - Rafael Nadal
Nadal is trying to rebound from consecutive eliminations in the semifinals of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, which marked his worst start to the clay-court season in four years.
"The important thing is to win, you know, especially given what's happened in the last three days," he said.
"“In general, it’s a day to be very satisfied, very happy.”" - Rafael Nadal
A five-time champion in Madrid, Nadal will next face American Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
"He is playing really well," Nadal said of Tiafoe. "He has that drive and energy and it will be a good test for me and an opportunity for me to play a tough match and to keep improving."
The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime is having his breakthrough season on tour, having moved to 30th in the rankings after reaching the final in Rio and the semifinals in Miami.
(Published in an arrangement with The Associated Press.)
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