Nadal, Sharapova breeze through
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.