MELBOURNE, Australia – Rafael Nadal melted hearts at the Australian Open, rushing to console a ballgirl and kissing her on the cheek after one of his fearsome shots ricocheted off her.
The Spanish world No. 1 was in the throes of wrapping up his second-round clash on Thursday, January 23 at Rod Laver Arena against Argentine Federico Delbonis when the unfortunate girl found herself in his firing line.
Nadal went over to check how she was and gave her a quick peck on the cheek for good measure, leaving the youngster blushing.
"For her it was not a good moment, I was so scared for her, the ball was quick and straight on her," Nadal said after the match, giving her his headband as a momento.
"She's a super brave girl. It has been one of the more scary moments of my career. I'm very happy she is good. She is brave. Well done."
On court, though, Nadal needed to be more clinical after dogged fellow left-hander Delbonis frustrated him as the the 19-time Grand Slam winner created 20 break opportunities but was constantly denied by the Argentine before he wrapped up a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 win.
The victory set up a third-round clash with countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, his doubles partner at this month's ATP Cup.
"It was a tough match. I lost a lot of opportunities on break point but found a way to finally win the 2nd set," he said. "In the 3rd I was more relaxed, more aggressive and found better play in that set."
Nadal had dropped only 10 games in 3 previous emphatic wins over 76th-ranked Delbonis and defeat was never on the cards at Melbourne Park.
But the Argentine, whose best Grand Slam result was the third round in Melbourne in 2016, made life hard for Nadal, fending off 17 of his break point chances.
"I think I can do lot of things better. But is not because of Delbonis. I can do things better because of myself. I need to play better," said Nadal.
"Especially I need to convert the break points. But that's just something that happened today. We don't need to put a lot of attention on this.
"Just was something that is hopefully history of just one day."
Nadal looked on track for another straightforward victory after racing through the opening set, sealing it with a trademark crosscourt forehand.
But he found it tougher going in the 2nd, which went with serve up to the tiebreaker.
Nadal, though, came through and Delbonis never recovered as the Spaniard asserted his authority to race home, but not before hitting a ballgirl on the head with a fearsome shot. – Rappler.com