Rafael Nadal proved his fitness on his return to action ahead of Wimbledon with a routine straight-sets victory over Stan Wawrinka in Wednesday’s exhibition match.
The 37-year-old has won the Australian Open and French Open titles already this year, but his bid for a grand slam sweep was halted by a troublesome foot problem.
Nadal triumphed at Roland Garros despite needing pain-killing injections before every match, leaving his fitness in doubt for Wimbledon next week.
However, the 22-time grand slam winner confirmed last week he was planning on taking part in the third major of the year after spending time training on grass in Mallorca.
And in his first match since beating Casper Ruud in the French Open final two-and-a-half weeks ago, Nadal eased past Wawrinka at the Hurlingham Club in London.
The Spaniard raced into a five-game lead in the opener and, despite losing his break of serve in the seventh game, saw out a straightforward opening set.
Playing in front of around 1,300 spectators, Nadal was pushed a little harder in the second set but still came through relatively unscathed to win 6-2 6-3 in a little over an hour.
Wawrinka, who has been handed a wild card for Wimbledon, expects Nadal to be right in the mix for a third crown at All England Club, 12 years on from his most recent triumph.
“After that I have a lot to work on,” he joked. “But it’s OK, it’s against Rafa. We are used to losing against him. It’s normal!.
“I don’t know how he’s feeling – it looks like normal Rafa. He has been saying he is feeling better and if he is playing he is ready to play his best and to win.
“I think Rafa any time he enters a grand slam is going to be one of the favourites, if not the favourite.
“He won the first two slams of the year without too many matches before those grand slams so he got a lot of confidence so of course he is part of the favourites.”
As well as twice winning Wimbledon, Nadal has also reached the semi-finals in his past two appearances in 2018 and 2019.
After getting a first grass-court appearance in three years under his belt, he is hoping for more happy memories during his time in the English capital.
“I have spent some fantastic moments here in London,” he said. “Playing of course at the World Tour Finals a lot of times but of course playing at Wimbledon since 2003.
“It was always a big goal and a dream for me to achieve important things here at Wimbledon and I was able to make that happen for the first time in 2008.
“Since that moment, I always come back with the same passion and I always feel very welcomed by the crowd here.”
Nadal will be number two seed when the draw takes place on Friday, with long-time rival Novak Djokovic the top seed in the absence of Daniil Medvedev.