Nadal hits out at ATP over lack of support for Majorca victims
The Spaniard won his first match since last year’s US Open in the first round in Melbourne.
Rafael Nadal waded into the fierce political debate in men’s tennis and criticised the ATP for not offering financial support to flood-hit Majorca.
The disaster in October happened in the neighbouring village to Nadal’s home town of Manacor, with 13 people losing their lives, including the cousin of one of his best friends and her son.
Nadal was pictured the following day helping with the clean-up efforts and also opened his tennis academy to victims of the floods before donating one million euros (approximately £900,000) to the cause.
Speaking after a 6-4 6-3 7-5 victory over James Duckworth in the first round of the Australian Open, Nadal expressed his disappointment that the players’ organisation had not offered any help.
He said: “If something happens to the country of one of the players that did, in my opinion, important things for this sport and give a lot of things to the sport, I would love to see the organisation that is running the sport supporting that person.
“It didn’t happen in my case. I can’t be happy with that.”
Nadal is also unhappy not to have been consulted about the future of ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode, whose position is understood to be under threat from the player council led by Novak Djokovic.
Roger Federer said he would be talking to members of the council along with Nadal and Andy Murray to discuss the situation and voiced broad support for Londoner Kermode, whose second three-year term ends at the conclusion of the season.
Nadal, like Federer and Murray a former member of the council, also backs Kermode and is unhappy that his views have not been sought.
He said of Djokovic: “I don’t have to go (and find him). He’s in the council, they have to come to me. I believe in the projects as long term, not short term. And because of that, I believe that is not good to have changes all the time.
“I believe that Chris probably did some good work out there, and I don’t see him doing negative things or enough negative things to not continue in the position.”
Grigor Dimitrov was even more vociferous in his support for Kermode, saying: “I think changing Chris Kermode would be one of the biggest mistakes. Tennis is in such a good place. Everything has gone through so many good and positive changes. I wouldn’t do that, absolutely.”
Dimitrov, now being coached by Andre Agassi, recovered from a set down to beat Janko Tipsarevic 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-4, while Nadal was happy with his performance in his first match in four months.
Knee pain saw the Spaniard retire from his semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open last September and, after an abdominal problem and ankle surgery ended his season early, he pulled out of the tournament in Brisbane last week with a minor thigh strain.
Nadal remodelled his serve during that time and, although he was broken twice by Australian wild card Duckworth, including when he served for the match, he was content with the new stroke.
Federer kicked off his quest to win a 21st grand slam singles title with a straightforward 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Denis Istomin.
The double defending champion did not face a break point as he eased past the Uzbek, who had stunned Nadal in the same tournament two years ago.
The 37-year-old Federer, who is also seeking his 100th major tournament win in Melbourne, will face Briton Dan Evans in round two.
But ninth seed John Isner lost the battle of the towering Americans to 6ft 11in Reilly Opelka – with, not surprisingly, all the sets going to tie-breaks.
There were also victories for two of the most exciting young talents on tour – 14th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian teenager Alex de Minaur.