Rafael Nadal’s quest to complete his “Rafa Slam” at the Australian Open started with a first round victory that lasted only 11 games and certainly helped him conserve plenty of energy.
Nadal went straight to the practice courts and worked on his serve, later saying it needs work to improve his chances of winning the Australian title. Nadal led 6-0, 5-0 when Marcos Daniel retired with a left knee injury on Tuesday.
Murray posts win
Andy Murray, the 2010 finalist, advanced when Karol Beck retired with a shoulder injury in the third set of their first round match. The fifth-seeded Murray, who was leading 6-3, 6-1, 4-2 when Beck quit the match, was the only man to beat Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament last year.
Nadal could sympathise with Daniel, the 24-year-old Spaniard recalled how he himself had to retire from the last Australian Open with an injured knee in the quarterfinals against Murray. But Nadal recovered from that setback and won the next three majors and is now aiming to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam trophies at the same time.
“It’s a terrible feeling, for sure. I wish him all the best for a fast recovery,” Nadal said after the match. “Last year was a really difficult time when I played this tournament. I came back here playing well ... but to go out like that was hard mentally.
“Finally, I had a very good season in 2010.” “I came back after a difficult situation. Winning Roland Garros was very important; it allowed me to play the rest of the season with a little bit more calm.”
Still, he’s not thinking about victory celebrations at Melbourne Park just yet. “I never think about winning the four Grand Slams in a row because that’s very far right now,” he said.
Daniel had a medical time out at the end of the first set and had his left knee heavily strapped. He said he’d injured his knee earlier in the week in practice, but thought it would get him through the match.
He said playing Nadal on centre court made it more difficult. “That’s the hardest part. In the beginning I was feeling embarrassed a little bit,” he said. “I tried to play the game, it didn’t work. It looks like I’m 75 years old.”
“Save energy or not, I think the way that the match came doesn’t make big difference,” Nadal said. “Is difficult ... to say I played really well, I played bad. I think I played right.”
Australian wildcard entry Bernard Tomic advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Jeremy Chardy of France. He is a potential third round opponent for Nadal.
Zvonareva ousts Bammer
Hoping a third time will be luckier, Vera Zvonareva began her bid to reach a third consecutive Grand Slam final with a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win over Sybille Bammer in the opening match Tuesday on Rod Laver Arena.
Zvonareva dominated the first set against the 30-year-old Bammer and tightened her grip on the match in the second. She conceded only four points in the first four games of the second set and didn’t allow the Austrian to hold until the sixth game.
Also advancing were French Open finalist Sam Stosur, the fifth-seeded Australian beating American wildcard entry Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-1; No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska, who took six of the last seven games after a medical timeout in the third set to hold off Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm 6-4, 4-6, 7-5; No. 7 Jelena Jankovic; No. 25 Petra Kvitova and China’s Peng Shuai.
On the men’s side, No. 15 Marin Cilic of Croatia beat American qualifier Donald Young 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to advance along with No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny, No. 11 Jurgan Melzer, No. 31 Feliciano Lopez and No. 32 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.