BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal returned to Davis Cup action for the first time in two years on Friday with his victory putting Spain ahead in a Group One relegation playoff against Denmark.
The 14-times grand slam champion, short of form and beaten in the third round of the US Open by Fabio Fognini, overcame world number 909 Mikael Torpegaard 6-4 6-3 6-2.
The 29-year-old’s last appearance was against Ukraine in 2013, since when the five-times champions have tumbled out of the World Group, and he was joined by David Ferrer as Spain established a 2-0 lead on day one.
Nadal did not have things all his own way against Torpegaard, who had three break points to take a 5-4 lead in the opening set before Nadal regained control.
In the World Group playoffs, Switzerland’s big guns Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka helped their country into a 2-0 lead against the Netherlands, although Wawrinka was given a huge scare before beating Thiemo de Bakker in five sets.
Nadal’s US Open conqueror Fognini beat Russian teenager Andrey Rublev to leave Italy tied at 1-1 after the first day of their World Group playoff in Irkutsk.
The United States, 32-times champions, were locked at 1-1 with Uzbekistan after Steve Johnson lost a five-setter to Denis Istomin before Jack Sock levelled things up with victory over Farrukh Dustov in Tashkent.