Rafael Nadal came out strong in his first match as the man with the most Grand Slam titles in tennis history, beating American lucky loser Denis Kudla in Acapulco, 6-3, 6-2.

It was Nadal’s first match since winning his 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, which broke a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the record.

“It has been a very positive match,” he said in his on-court interview. “I started very well, and I think I played a very solid match. Of course there are a couple of things I can do better, but overall I played very well, so I cannot complain about it.”

Against Kudla, Nadal picked up right where he left off 22 days ago at the end of the Australian Open final—holding at love—and after missing out on two break points in Kudla’s first service game, he broke the American’s second service game for a 3-1 lead, and the two players held from there until the first set was in the books.

Kudla held to open the second set but Nadal shifted to another gear from there, rattling off five games in a row to build a 6-3, 5-1 lead—after one last Kudla hold, Nadal served it out at love, finishing it off with a hook forehand winner up the line.

The Spaniard finished the match with 26 winners to 6 unforced errors, including 16 winners to just 2 unforced errors off the forehand, as well as 8 aces to 0 double faults.

Nadal is now 11-0 on the year, which not only includes going 7-0 to win the Australian Open, but also 3-0 to win the Melbourne Summer Set lead-up event two weeks before.

It’s tied for the best start to a season in his career, after he also went 11-0 to kick off 2014—that year he went 5-0 to win Doha in the first week of the year and 6-0 to reach the Australian Open final, where he finished runner-up to Stan Wawrinka.

Nadal is now 21-2 in his career in Acapulco, winning it twice when it was held on clay in 2005 and 2013, as well as once in 2020 after it switched to hard courts.

Nadal is now 21-2 in his career in Acapulco, winning it twice when it was held on clay in 2005 and 2013, as well as once in 2020 after it switched to hard courts.


Awaiting Nadal in the second round will be another American lucky loser, Stefan Kozlov, who surprised Grigor Dimitrov on Monday night, 7-6 (8), 5-7, 6-3, after three hours and 21 minutes—the longest match in the ATP 500 event’s history.

Nadal and Kozlov were actually playing a practice set against each other on Monday when Kozlov was told he got into the main draw as a lucky loser and needed to go on court against Dimitrov—and Kozlov was actually a point up on Nadal.

Nadal wasn’t the only high-profile winner in Acapulco on Tuesday night—Daniil Medvedev, who will rise to No. 1 on the ATP rankings if he wins the title this week, began his quest for the top spot with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Benoit Paire, rallying from 4-2 down in the second set to close out the former Top 20 player in straight sets.

“I had to fight for every point,” Medvedev said after the match. “That’s what I tried to do, and that’s what I managed to do, and I’m happy I managed to get the win.”

Medvedev was also playing his first match since the Australian Open final, where he fell to Nadal in five sets, 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, after five hours and 24 minutes.

Up next for Medvedev will be Pablo Andujar, who he beat in their only previous meeting in the third round of the US Open last year, 6-0, 6-4, 6-3, en route to his first major title.