World number one Rafael Nadal had a winning return to Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien . Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
World number one Rafael Nadal had a winning return to Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien . Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Nadal pleased with positive start in Melbourne, Pliskova through to second round

Time of article published Jan 21, 2020

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MELBOURNE - World number one Rafael Nadal had a winning return to Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien, while second seed Pliskova also stayed perfect against Kristina Mladenovic on her way to the second round of the Australian Open.

The first round on Tuesday claimed the first former Melbourne champion, Maria Sharapova, and the highest seed so far - number eight, Johanna Konta.

Last year's runner up Nadal showed some consistency issues against unheralded Dellien as he kicked off his 2020 campaign, but still comfortably took home a straight sets win in just over two hours. 

Earlier on, world number two Pliskova also took care of business taking home a 6-1, 7-5 victory over France's Mladenovic at a sunny, but chilly, Rod Laver Arena.

Following Pliskova at Rod Laver Arena, Maria Sharapova lost a third straight slam opener with a 3-6, 4-6 defeat to 19th seed Donna Vekic, becoming the first former Australian Open champion to exit the 2020 tournament so far.

Another former champion, 2014 title holder Stan Wawrinka, overcame his first hurdle with a 7-5, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4 win over Damir Dzumhur.

At the 1573 Arena, Britain's Konta became the highest seed to crash out in the first round so far with a 4-6, 2-6 loss to Tunisia's Ons Jabeur.

Fifth seed Dominic Thiem, who had two first round exits at the slams since making it to the 2019 French Open's final, made it through the first hurdle this time around, beating France's Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.

Swiss sixth seed Belinda Bencic meanwhile progressed to the second round after defeating Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-3, 7-5, as did 10th seed Madison Keys, who overpowered Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1 in under an hour.

Ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut went past fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.

World number one Nadal hit four double faults to one ace and made 10 unforced errors to 12 winners in the opening set, dropping a game on a backhand error as well as a second one in the following set.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion cleaned things up in the closing set, hitting no double faults to three aces and five unforced errors to 18 winners.

"For me personally it's been a positive start, what you want in the first round is just win, and if it's in straight sets better. [I'm] happy and excited to be back here in Melbourne," the Spaniard said after the match.

Pliskova, who is seeking a first Grand Slam singles title and last year reached the semis in Melbourne, was in control in the opener, where she broke the Mladenovic's serve twice.

The second seed broke Frenchwoman again mid-second set, but the world number 41 broke right back before dropping her serve again at 5-5, opening the door for the Czech star to serve it out in one hour and 24 minutes.

"I think it was a very tough first round ... it was a good test to start with such a high quality match," Pliskova said in her on court interview. 

"It was very tough, mentally also in the second set, but I am happy that I am through."

dpa

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