Rafael Nadal of Spain returns during his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine at the Brisbane International.
Rafael Nadal of Spain returns during his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine at the Brisbane International. DAVE HUNT

Nadal gives Brisbane his seal of approval

THANK "Uncle Toni” for Rafael Nadal giving this year's Brisbane International such a charge that he might as well be a pair of jumper leads.

Toni Nadal visited Brisbane for the 2014 tournament as a guest speaker for a series of Tennis Australia coaching seminars.

The lifelong coach of Spain's tennis warrior told The Courier-Mail on that trip that he thought Brisbane was a perfect place for an Australian Open preparation and he would be telling his nephew so.

It would mean going somewhere other than Nadal's habitual first tournament of the year, in Doha, Qatar, which he has played eight times, winning one title.

The 2017 summer became a win-win situation for tournament and superstar.

The Brisbane International had known for some time that Roger Federer had defected to the Hopman Cup and Nadal's agents knew that loosened up TA's budget for Brisbane, where Federer had been rumoured to have received an $800,000 appearance fee.

Nadal, who plays the tricky German left-hander Mischa Zverev on Thursday night at Pat Rafter Arena for a quarter-final berth, could have made many hundreds of thousands more by playing in Doha. It offers $US1.33 million in financial commitment, compared with Brisbane's $US495,630.

"I don't know if it will help me or not - I can tell you after Melbourne,” said the winner of one Australian Open title and twice a runner-up.

"Doha worked well for me in the past, but I think Brisbane will help me adapt to Australian conditions. It's a beautiful court and we had a great crowd (for a first-round win on Tuesday night over Alexandr Dolgopolov).”

Nadal's first appearance in Brisbane was key to attracting a Tuesday night-session record attendance of 6879.

Federer saw the sights of south-east Queensland on his three visits to provide valuable images for the state's tourism on, admittedly, more free time than Nadal has had on this trip so far.

Asked what he was going to do on his day off on Wednesday other than practice, the 14-time grand slam champion replied: "Sleep.”

Zverev, ranked No.51, beat world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka in his home country, Switzerland, last year to top a season in which he set an all-time ATP record by qualifying for 10 tournaments in one year.

"He finished last year playing great,” Nadal said.

"He's a player, offensive player, with a great serve, good volley. I need to play long, not giving him a lot of chances to take control of the point.”

Some visiting drawcards have desired hot-weather matches in Brisbane to fast-track Australian Open match fitness, but Nadal said with his Monday arrival from an Abu Dhabi exhibition, a second night match was best timing for him.

Top seed Milos Raonic opens Thursday after a first-round bye against Argentuina's Diego Schwarztman in daytime heat.

"You want these hot days, but you sort of ought to be able to work your way into it a little bit slowly. Dealing with the jet lag, was a little bit tough on the first day,” Raonic said.

"It's a tournament I have great memories of, having won last year and been in the final in 2015.”


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