Rafael Nadal marks injury return with easy win over Philipp Kohlschreiber
The world number one has been absent due to a hip injury since January’s Australian Open, where he lost in the quarter-finals, but appeared unhindered in seeing off his opponent in Valencia on Friday.
Nadal did look vulnerable on serve at times during the match, but one sensed he always had enough in his return game to keep the pressure on Kohlschreiber, who had earlier seen compatriot Alexander Zverev defeat David Ferrer in three sets.
In front of a partisan crowd which needed little excuse to get excited, Nadal regularly produced his trademark fist pump en route to a Davis Cup-record 23rd straight win in singles and doubles, a run that stretches back to 2005.
Despite his lengthy absence Nadal was much the quicker out the blocks as he took a 2-0 lead in the opener courtesy of a break to love.
There were signs of rustiness, however, as three double-faults saw him drop serve immediately, but his advantage was swiftly restored and the set was secured thanks to a sliced backhand which died on Kohlschreiber.
At 4-1 down in the second, Kohlschreiber enjoyed some good fortune as the officials awarded him a point despite replays showing him to have reached the ball after its second bounce. Nadal - who left Kohlschreiber’s return alone - was nonplussed and failed to overturn the decision as his opponent rescued five break points.
It mattered little, however, as Nadal’s thumping forehand secured a two-set lead and after the pair traded breaks at the start of the third, the home favourite moved through the gears and broke for 4-2 as Kohlschreiber went wide and then netted.
Two venomous forehands - one on either flank - helped Nadal consolidate and two games later he came from 0-30 down to see out an impressive triumph.