Rafa advances in straight sets after back worries

Sports

MELBOURNE, Australia — If Rafael Nadal has a bad back, he didn’t show any signs of it in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Laslo Djere on Tuesday in the first round at the Australian Open.

The No. 2-ranked Nadal is aiming to go one better than Roger Federer and win a men’s-record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

He didn’t play for Spain at the ATP Cup last week and has been troubled by stiffness in his lower back.

“Well, it’s been a tough 15 days for me. I had some issues with the back,” Nadal said in his postmatch interview. “I needed to survive today. That’s what I did.

“Straight sets — that’s what I need.”

Russia’s ATP Cup-winning combination had relatively easy first-round wins.

Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev extended his winning streak to 15 matches with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over Vasek Pospisil, and seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev beat Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Australian wild-card entry Alexei Popyrin defeated No. 13 David Goffin 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6, (6), 6-3.

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