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Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem in Australian Open practice match

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Rafael Nadal has given the clearest indication yet that he is fit and ready for the Australian Open with a win over Dominic Thiem in a practice match today.Nadal will start next week’s Australian Open as top seed with a match against Victor Estrella Burgos, the Dominican world No 81 whom he has never faced before.

But the Spaniard arrived in Australia last week under an injury cloud, having pulled out of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and the Brisbane International because of a knee injury.

The complaint forced Nadal out of the ATP World Tour Finals in November and cancel a pre-Christmas training camp with hitting partner Joao Sousa.

It means the 31-year-old has not played a competitive match for two months, but today continued to shake off the ring-rust in a practice clash with Thiem.
The Austrian, who will start as the No 5 seed on Monday and play Argentina’s Guido Pella, won the first set in a tie-break but Nadal secured the only two breaks of the match in the second to level the match.

The roof on Margaret Court Arena was shut and the humidity forced both players to cry of a third set and play a deciding tie-break instead, which Nadal won 10-8.

The Spaniard had already cooled fears his injury would rule him out of the first Grand Slam of the year with an exhibition match against Richard Gasquet at the Kooyong Classic on Tuesday.
However, the 2017 Australian Open runner-up was beaten in straight sets and struggled with his forehand in the blustery conditions.

But he looked in better form on Wednesday at the Tie Break Tens, beating Lucas Poulle and Lleyton Hewitt before losing to Tomas Berdych in the final.

Nadal had been installed as joint second favourite alongside Novak Djokovic earlier this week, but a tricky draw for the Serb saw him drift to 6/1.

Nadal remains second in the betting at 7/2 while defending Roger Federer is favourite at 2/1

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