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Rafael Nadal’s a smash hit on his return to grass – as the Spaniard sends an powerful SW19 warning

Rafael Nadal is a bullseye on his return to the grass for Wimbledon as the Spaniard sends a strong warning three years after his last SW19 appearance with a confident straight-set win against Stan Wawrinka

  • Rafael Nadal was finally back on the grass three years after his last performance on the grass
  • Nadal looks dead serious about the third leg of his Grand Slam bid calendar
  • He beat fellow French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2 in Fulham
  • Playing on the stately lawns of the Hurlingham Club, Nadal looked convincing

It had taken three years, but Rafael Nadal was back on a lawn on Wednesday, looking dead serious as the third leg of his Grand Slam bid on the calendar.

Nadal took to the stately lawns of Fulham’s Hurlingham Club for a match in the Giorgio Armani Classic, hammering his fellow French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2.

“I haven’t been able to play on grass during the difficult moments we went through with the pandemic and last year I got injured so I’m excited to be back,” he told a packed crowd of 1,500.

Rafael Nadal (above) looks dead serious about the third leg of his Grand Slam bid calendar

Rafael Nadal (above) looks dead serious about the third leg of his Grand Slam bid calendar

He defeated Stan Wawrinka (top left) 6-2, 6-2 at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham on Wednesday

He defeated Stan Wawrinka (top left) 6-2, 6-2 at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham on Wednesday

It was Nadal's first grass game in three years - and he looked good for Wimbledon

It was Nadal’s first grass game in three years – and he looked good for Wimbledon

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Equally convincing was Wimbledon’s defending champion Novak Djokovic, another who has opted for calm and a gentler preparation for the big fortnight.

These occasions are far from thoroughbred, but Nadal still looked extremely sharp with no signs that the most famous tennis foot is causing him trouble.

The last time he stepped properly on the grass was when Roger Federer defeated him in the 2019 semi-finals – which may well be the last time the two major rivals have faced each other.

Nadal moved almost as if he had never been away on Wednesday, and his timing was right from the start.

It’s hard to believe that Nadal would have traveled to London unless he thinks he’s a serious contender for SW19, and it certainly looked like that.

Wawrinka, himself a three-time Grand Slam champion, left no doubt about the Spaniard’s intentions.

“Playing Rafa is always difficult, he has full confidence now,” said the Swiss.

“I don’t know how he feels, it looks like a normal Rafa.

“He has said he feels better and when he plays, he is ready to give his best and win.

“Every time he competes in a Grand Slam, he becomes one of the favourites, if not the favourite. He won the first two Slams of the year without too many games before that, so he’s obviously one of the favourites.’

Serbian star Novak Djokovic looked equally sharp as he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-1

Serbian star Novak Djokovic looked equally sharp as he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-1

Djokovic looked equally sharp as he defeated Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-1, showing little sign of ring rust after taking a break from his quarter-final defeat in Paris.

Based on this limited evidence, there seems to be no reason not to believe the bookmakers who have Djokovic and Nadal in their top three favorites for the title, divided by champion Queen and last year’s finalist Matteo Berrettini.

Wawrinka has also practiced with outside bet Andy Murray, who he says hit at a high level.

Wawrinka has practiced with Briton Andy Murray, who he said hit at a high level

Wawrinka has practiced with Briton Andy Murray, who he said hit at a high level

The 35-year-old Scot is one of many names at Wimbledon to go into this year with precarious fitness, but he could be returning to duty in recent days.

It’s an encouraging sign, as this has been Murray’s main concern with his tummy problem.

Emma Raducanu was also practicing again at Wimbledon, for the fourth consecutive day. Serving is also the issue with her as she has a similar side effect.

British teenager Emma Raducanu hopes to be fit for SW19 as she battles side injury

British teenager Emma Raducanu hopes to be fit for SW19 as she battles side injury

She was cautiously serving on Wednesday as she tries to ensure she can compete without having to withdraw from another match.

The draw will take place on Friday morning and ideally she can make a decisive decision before then, but Wimbledon will probably give her as much time as she needs to make a decision.

Nick Kyrgios joined the long list of those whose Wimbledon entry is in doubt when he withdrew from this week’s Mallorca Open. The Australian cites another abdominal injury but hopes to play at the All England Club.

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