Rafael Nadal ready to test knee on hard courts

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“That will be a big test for me,” Nadal said. “Today I know I can play on clay; that’s a very important thing to know for me.”

This was the first event for Williams and Azarenka since they faced off in the Qatar Open final Feb. 17. Azarenka won that one 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 to snap a 10-match losing streak against Williams, which included the U.S. Open final.

Both looked rusty Monday, with little of the electricity of their three-set thriller a few miles away at Flushing Meadows in September.

They finally started showing some shot-making in the eighth game, when Azarenka’s lob landed on the baseline, drawing applause from the American. Williams, who hurt her ankle and back at the Australian Open, ran all the way into the barrier at the front of the stands to chase down a shot later in the game.

She raced back to the middle of the court, and Azarenka hit her overhead into the net. Williams plopped down to the ground for some rest.

Down triple break point in the fourth game of the second set, Williams suddenly regained her trademark big serve to rally back. Azarenka, who has yet to lose an official match this year while defending her Aussie title, was broken six times in 10 service games.

Facing break point at 3-3, she seemed to realize it was time to dispense with the serious tennis. Azarenka called her No. 1 fan, pop star Redfoo, onto the court to take over for a point. He showed good pace if not accuracy on his serve.

“He needs to practice before his exhibition,” Azarenka joked later.

Williams and Azarenka also played a couple of rallies left-handed in honor of Nadal. They revealed they’re planning to shoot a karaoke video together to Rihanna’s “Stay.”

Williams said Azarenka is one of the few players she’s close to off the court.

“We really respect each other,” Williams said. “I love Victoria as a person. I love how she’s so competitive on the court.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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