Rafael Nadal loses his first match of the year to Richard Gasquet

Rafael Nadal loses his first match of the year to Richard Gasquet”

The world No.1 played just his second match in nearly three months, losing to veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-5 in their exhibition outing in Melbourne today.

The Serbian 12-time Grand Slam victor was in good form, and full of optimism, after his first competitive outing since losing a Wimbledon quarter-final to Tomas Berdych last July.

"And he just lost that, maybe this time out, it's going to help him find his way back and get that mojo back, and like Federer maybe [he] needed some time off".

Last year Nadal lost to his arch rival Roger Federer in an epic final at the Australian Open.

"It's great to be the defending champion".

"I feel like those guys [Djokovic and Wawrinka], with the games they have, they have to feel their way in a little bit more, get some confidence under their belts before they can play their best tennis. Luckily for me I'm here and so I'm hoping in the next four, five days everything will go well and I'll be ready for the Open".

"It's still a good test for me and a good practice and that's the most important thing".

"But I didn't take that in a negative way".

"I'm good and I am here so that's good news and my idea is just to keep practicing the next couple of days to be ready for the beginning of the Australian Open". This year he would again try to capture the crown which has eluded him since 2009 despite reaching the finals in 2012, 2014 and 2017.

Federer made a stunning return to the ATP Tour 12 months ago after injury, the Swiss winning his fifth title at Melbourne Park with a five-set victory over Nadal.

Big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic is another with a chequered preparation after wrist surgery previous year, while American world number eight Jack Sock hurt his hip while playing in the Hopman Cup. Among them are World No.3 Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, No.5 Germany's Alexander Zverev and the tempestuous Australian Nick Kyrgios, who warmed up for the year's first Grand Slam by winning the Brisbane Open.

If there is to be a victor outside the top guns in Melbourne, those who look most likely are Bulgarian Dimitrov, third in the rankings behind Nadal and Federer, Germany's Zverev and tempestuous Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Djokovic, who hasn't played competitively since a right elbow problem forced him to quit Wimbledon in the quarter-finals in July, is due in court on Wednesday to play Thiem.

He became the youngest qualifier at the ATP Finals since former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro in 2008.By beating Federer in the Montreal final, he became the first player outside the "Big Four" to win multiple Masters 1000 titles in the same season since David Nalbandian in 2007. "I was feeling the ball well and hitting cleanly from both sides".

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