Rafael Nadal hammers US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in his first tour-level match for 200 days

  • Nadal got his quest for a 10th Italian Open crown off to a strong start 
  • The Spaniard overwhelmed Carreno Busta in 73 minutes on Wednesday
  • It was his first match since lifting his 85th title in Acapulco on February 29

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic spent their returns to the court serving notice that suggestions of a new world order may be premature.

Between them they conceded seven games at the Italian Open after very different absences from the competitive arena.

While Djokovic breezed past Italian Salvatore Caruso following his New York embarrassment, Nadal hammered US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1 in 73 minutes on Wednesday night.

Rafael Nadal got his quest for a 10th Internazionali BNL d'Italia crown off to a strong start

Rafael Nadal got his quest for a 10th Internazionali BNL d’Italia crown off to a strong start

It was Nadal’s first match since February 29 but clearly he has not spent all the intervening time in his fishing boat. Nadal sat out Flushing Meadows, declining to defend his title from the previous year in order to focus on clocking up a 13th French Open title.

By the time he had overwhelmed Carreno Busta he had sent a clear message to US Open champion Dominic Thiem. ‘It’s good to be back on the tour,’ said Nadal. ‘Obviously the feeling is not the best, playing without the crowd. I miss them, honestly.

‘I played a good match. Maybe he was a little bit tired from New York but it was a perfect start for me.’

Djokovic’s match was as uneventful as his previous outing had been tumultuous. Against wildcard Caruso he was always in command of the match and his own emotions, 10 days after being defaulted in New York for swatting a ball at a line judge.

Nadal hammered US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1 in 73 minutes

Nadal hammered US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1 in 73 minutes

He looks to have made a reasonably seamless transition to the clay, having already been training on it at his base in Marbella. There are few places on the tour where the world No 1 is more comfortable than Rome, with Italian one of the five languages he speaks.

‘It was a very good test for me. I’m very pleased with the way I handled myself in important moments,’ said Djokovic, who did not face a break point in winning his second-round match.

The performance of the day came from Victoria Azarenka, beaten finalist at the US Open last Saturday. Having flown straight to Rome after losing to Naomi Osaka, she made light of the transition in surfaces to defeat Venus Williams 7-6, 6-2.

Williams’ sister Serena, meanwhile, looks sure to play the French Open as she has travelled to begin her clay court preparations at the Nice academy of her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.  

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