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Sports News

Nadal says back injury much improved as he reaches last 16

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 13, 2021 Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts during his third round match against Britain's Cameron Norrie REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal said his suspect back was no longer worrying him as he eased into the second week of the Australian Open by beating Britain’s Cameron Norrie on Saturday.

The 34-year-old, bidding to move ahead of Roger Federer at the top of the Grand Slam titles list by winning only his second title in Melbourne, was not at his absolute best against Norrie but still cruised to a 7-5 6-2 7-5 win.

He said the most positive aspect of his routine third-round win was that the lower back problem that had dogged his build-up and prevented him serving properly was much improved.

“The back was not getting better each day. It was getting better today,” Nadal, who is tied with Federer on 20 Grand Slam singles titles, told reporters.

“Was the first day I feel an improvement, and that’s the most important thing for me today, more than any other thing.”

Nadal’s service speeds have been down so far at the tournament but he won 77% of points behind his first serve and an impressive 69% on his second delivery.

“I need to come back to my normal serving,” Nadal, who faces Italian Fabio Fognini, said. “Of course I was not serving my normal serve for the last 15 days.

“Today is the first day that I started to serve again my normal serve. So of course I didn’t serve bad, but I can do better, I think. And I’m looking forward to do it better.”

“The biggest victory is the back is better for the first day.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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