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Pounding winners from all angles of the court, Nadal looked lethal in a 6-1 6-4 6-2 demolition of American Marcos Giron on Monday.
The dramatic deportation of world No.1 and nine-times champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer's injury-enforced absence has left Nadal as the only player with the chance to snare a record 21st men's grand slam singles crown this month.
And the great Spaniard needed only one hour and 48 minutes to confirm he's over the debilitating foot injury that cruelled his 2021 season, not to mention his bout of Covid-19 only last month.
As well as clubbing 34 clean winners, Nadal broke Giron five times and offered up only two break points on his own serve all match.
Nadal's victory came after the 35-year-old captured his 89th career title in Adelaide this month in a triumphant return after missing six months of last season.
"I am happy that if you told me one month ago that I would be in this position, I would have signed the paper," Nadal said.
"It's been a very challenging few months. Not not only the six months obviously of being outside of competition but since the first lockdown in 2020.
"Honestly, it's been very tough moments and there are still doubts but here I am and I can't be happier to be back in this amazing stadium. It's fantastic."
A five-times finalist in Melbourne and champion in 2009, the former world No.1 will play either resurgent home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis or German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in the second round on Wednesday.
Kokkinakis is riding his own five-match winning streak after winning last week's Adelaide International 2, giving the injury-plagued 25-year-old his long-awaited maiden ATP title.
"He's always has been a fantastic player he's been very unlucky with lots of injuries," Nadal said.
"I am really happy to see him back at a very high level, maybe his best-ever level, and if that happens, it's going to be very tough for me, a big test."