MADRID -- Fresh off his U.S. Open victory, Rafael Nadal returned to Davis Cup play for Spain on Friday and helped his country to a 2-0 lead over Ukraine in a World Group playoff.
Nadal last played for Spain in 2011 when he won the decisive point of the final against Argentina to give Spain its fifth title. His absence has been due in part to a knee injury that sidelined him for seven months last season.
The world's No. 2 player showed no signs of weariness after winning his 13th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open on Monday. He said he felt fine returning to his preferred clay after the hard courts in New York.
"I only had a short time to get used to clay gain, a surface I love," he said. "Changing surfaces quickly is not the best thing for your legs."
Nadal needed 30 minutes to ease to a one-set lead. He lowered that mark by four minutes to go ahead 2-0.
Things were so dire for the 92nd-ranked Stakhovsky that when he finally won his first game, the 13th of the match, he pumped his arms and was applauded by the smattering of Ukrainians and the rest of the Spanish crowd.
"We have the series in hand, but it's not over," Nadal said. "We accomplished our goal for today and are happy with the wins. Let's see if tomorrow we can get the decisive point."
In doubles Saturday, Spain's Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez will play Ukraine's Vladyslav Manafov and Denys Molchanov. Reverse singles are Sunday.