Nadal, Sharapova advance
MELBOURNE – Rafael Nadal has missed a lot of tennis since last September. He hasn’t missed a beat.
The No. 2-seeded Nadal had a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5, win over Australian wild-card entry James Duckworth on Monday in the first round of the Australian Open, 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 warmup tournament in Brisbane in the first week of the season because of a muscle strain in his thigh.
“Not easy to come back after a lot of months of competition, especially against a player playing super aggressive every shot,” Nadal said. “It’s very difficult to start after an injury – I know it very well. It’s very special to be back.”
Maria Sharapova has the second-best record among active women’s players in first-round 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.