Tennis-Exhibition matches 'perfect' preparation for Nadal ahead of Wimbledon


FILE PHOTO: Spain's Rafael Nadal trains at Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, on the island of Mallorca, Spain, June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

(Reuters) - Rafa Nadal played his first grasscourt match in three years on Wednesday and the Spaniard says a couple of exhibition games at the Hurlingham Club is the perfect preparation for Wimbledon, where he will bid for a third straight Grand Slam this season.

Nadal won the Australian and French Opens back-to-back for the first time and a win at Wimbledon, where the main draw kicks off on Monday, will take him a step closer to becoming the first man to win all four majors in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969.

The Spaniard, who had not played a competitive match on grass since his 2019 semi-final loss at Wimbledon to Roger Federer, beat Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 on Wednesday and said it was good to get the feel of the surface again.

"It has been a while without playing on grass," he told reporters. "Since 2019 I haven't been able to play on grass through the tough moments we went through with the pandemic and last year I got injured.

"I am older now - I can't manage to play so many matches. For me it is perfect to play a couple of matches here before Wimbledon starts. That helps me to feel at least some competition before Wimbledon."

Nadal, who holds a men's record 22 Grand Slam titles, has struggled with a chronic foot injury over the last year and had pain-killing injections prior to each match at Roland Garros.

The 36-year-old underwent radio frequency treatment after his French Open victory and said the pain had subsided.

"I don't know how he is feeling, it looks like normal Rafa," said three-time major champion Wawrinka. "He has been saying he is feeling better and if he is playing he is ready to play his best and to win."

Novak Djokovic, who has won Wimbledon the last three times, also played at London's Hurlingham Club on Wednesday, defeating Canada's world number nine Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2 6-1.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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