(Brisbane) Rafael Nadal continues his flawless performance. On Thursday, the Spaniard reached the second round of the Brisbane tournament, conceding only three games against the Australian Jason Kubler, 102nd in the world, swept 6-1, 6-2.

“I feel competitive,” assured the 37-year-old former world number one, who will face Australian Jordan Thompson in the quarter-final.

“It’s a very positive match for me, I have the chance to be able to continue playing tomorrow (Friday, Editor’s note). Two wins after such a long absence from the professional circuit is something that feels good,” he said, beaming during his post-match on-court interview.

Nadal had not played singles since his defeat in the second round of the Australian Open on January 18, 2023, against American Mackenzie McDonald. He resumed Tuesday against the Austrian Dominic Thiem, beaten 7-5, 6-1 in the first round in Brisbane.

Ten days before the start of the 2024 Australian Open, the winner of 22 Grand Slam tournaments (including 14 French Open) is back, even though the big favorite Novak Djokovic suffered a slight wrist injury Wednesday by competing in the United Cup, a mixed competition for national teams.

And to the delight of the audience at the packed Pat Rafter Arena, Nadal has indeed done Nadal again: precise return along the lines, unstoppable uncrossed forehand, spectacular backhand smash, killer cushioning, a minimum of unforced errors…

Kubler, an excellent doubles player, but ranked above the hundredth place in singles, is obviously not a sufficient reference to judge the real level of the Mallorcan. But Nadal is aware that a year of absence – which dropped him to 672nd place in the world – does not disappear so quickly.

“I need matches, to also play doubles, and to train well,” he admitted, “spending hours on the court is very important to me.”

Thursday, Nadal knocked out his Australian opponent with a thunderous start to the match. He won 14 of the game’s first 15 points, posting back-to-back shutouts in the second and third.

The Australian was already down 5-0 when he finally managed to get his head a little above water. He then obtained three break points in the sixth game, all saved by Nadal.

“I started the match very well, with a lot of determination,” commented Nadal, “I tried to be aggressive from the baseline and it worked very well.”

The second set started again with a white break achieved by the Spaniard. But the game then became a little more balanced, and the champion had to work a little harder to finally win.

The match was marked by a small incident, which finally made Nadal smile, when French referee Arnaud Gabas gave him a warning for exceeding the authorized time limit of a toilet break. Nadal explained after the match that he had to completely change his clothes, which were soggy from perspiration.