Top seed Rafael Nadal beat American qualifier Maxime Cressy 7-6(6), 6-3 to win the Melbourne Summer Set 1 ATP 250 event and build up momentum heading into the Australian Open.
The Spaniard, playing his first competitive tournament since August, was largely untroubled as he wrapped up the win in an hour 48 minutes.
Cressy was put under serious pressure by Nadal from the off, having to defend three break points in his first service game, but there was little to separate the two for the rest of the first set, which required a tiebreak.
Nadal stepped on the gas late in the tiebreak, saving a set point at 5-6 down and then earning a set point of his own with a forehand winner, which he converted to take the first set 7-6(6).
Cressy responded by breaking first in the second set to take a 2-1 lead, but Nadal immediately shut down a potential comeback with a break of his own to bring the set back on serve.
The Spaniard then broke again to lead 5-3 and held serve to claim the title.
“I’m coming back from some challenging moments and injuries, so it means a lot to be here,” the 20-times Grand Slam champion said, before praising his opponent.
“Congratulations Maxime, it’s a great start to the season. I wish you all the very best for the rest of the season and your career.”
Simona Halep wins in Melbourne too
Earlier on Sunday, former world number one Simona Halep stormed past Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-3 at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 final to claim her 23rd career title.
Kudermetova began the contest strongly, breaking Halep’s serve to take a 2-1 lead in the first set, but the two-times Grand Slam champion broke right back in the next game and then twice more to clinch the first set 6-2.
The second set unfolded in similar fashion, with Kudermetova taking the lead and Halep rallying to level the set at 2-2. Halep broke a few games later to make it 5-3 and then held to love to secure the win.
American Amanda Anisimova battled through injury to beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5 1-6 6-4 and claim her second WTA title in the Melbourne Summer Set 2.
Anisimova, who took a medical timeout for treatment on her left thigh in the second set, showed great resolve to fight back from 3-0 down in the deciding set and break twice, before sealing the win with an emphatic ace.
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