Nadal, Shara­pova breeze through

The Press - - Sport -

World No 2 Rafael Nadal reached the sec­ond round of the Aus­tralian Open beat­ing Aus­tralian wild­card en­try James Duck­worth.

Play­ing in his first match since Septem­ber the Spa­niard eased through 6-4 6-3 7-5. It was also his first match back on Rod Laver Arena since he had to re­tire in his quar­ter­fi­nal match last year.

The 17-time ma­jor win­ner hasn’t played since re­tir­ing from his semi­fi­nal at the US Open be­cause of a knee in­jury, and then had surgery on his right an­kle in Novem­ber.

He with­drew from a warm-up tour­na­ment in Bris­bane in the first week of the sea­son be­cause of a mus­cle strain in a thigh.

‘‘It is nor­mal that the be­gin­nings are tough, but ev­ery day helps and ev­ery day makes me feel bet­ter, makes me feel more con­fi­dent,’’ Nadal said.

‘‘So that’s an im­por­tant vic­tory be­cause is the first vic­tory in a while. That’s what I needed to­day.’’

He showed no signs of any is­sues against Duck­worth. His only hic­cup came when he served for the match in the ninth game of the third set and was bro­ken at love. He re­turned the favour very quickly, though, to seal his spot in the sec­ond round.

Fifth-seeded Kevin An­der­son won his first match at Mel­bourne Park since 2015 when he beat Adrian Man­nar­ino 6-3 5-7 6-2 6-1. Also ad­vanc­ing on the men’s side were No 19 Nikoloz Basi­lashvili and No 26 Fer­nando Ver­dasco.

Mean­while, Maria Shara­pova has the sec­ond-best record among ac­tive women’s play­ers in firstround matches at the ma­jors, and she gave an il­lus­tra­tion of why that’s the case with a ruth­less 6-0, 6-0 win over Har­riet Dart.

The 2008 Aus­tralian Open cham­pion got play started on Rod Laver Arena and needed only 63 min­utes to ad­vance.

In her 15th trip to Mel­bourne

Park and her 55th grand slam tour­na­ment, she’s acutely aware of the toll that the sun and long early matches can have on a player’s ti­tle am­bi­tions, so she gets straight to busi­ness.

Up next for Shara­pova is Re­becca Peter­son, who beat So­rana Cirstea, 6-4 6-1.

Also ad­vanc­ing were 2017 US Open cham­pion Sloane Stephens, No 11 Aryna Sa­balenka, No 19 Caro­line Gar­cia, No 29 Donna Ve­kic and No 31 Pe­tra Mar­tic.

Danielle Collins ad­vanced to the sec­ond round of a ma­jor for the first time fol­low­ing a 2-6 7-6 (5) 6-4 win over No 14-seeded Ju­lia

Go­erges, who won the ASB Clas­sic in Auck­land to start the sea­son.

Katie Boul­ter earned the dis­tinc­tion of win­ning the first 10-point tiebreaker un­der the Aus­tralian Open’s new sys­tem for de­cid­ing sets.

Boul­ter beat Eka­te­rina Makarova 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (6), in­clud­ing 10-6 in the tiebreaker. The new rule was in­tro­duced to en­sure matches don’t get too lengthy – pre­vi­ously the third set in women’s matches and the fifth set in men’s matches at the Aus­tralian Open had to be de­cided by a two-game ad­van­tage.

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