MELBOURNE – A ruthless Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in a clinical first round thumping at the Australian Open on Monday, with fellow former champions Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova also romping through.
The Spanish 17-time Grand Slam winner, who cut short his 2018 season to have surgery on a foot injury, cruised into round two of the year’s opening major 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 against Australian wildcard James Duckworth.
“Not easy to come back after a lot of months, especially against a player playing super aggressive on every point,” said the 2009 Australian champion, who showed no sign of any injury worries.
“The energy I feel in this place is fantastic,” he added
The second seed is bidding to become the first man in the Open era, and only the third in history along with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions.
Fifth seed Kevin Anderson progressed, as did NextGen Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. But ninth seed John Isner became the first top seed to crash out.
The 6ft 10in (2.08m) Isner came out second best in the battle of the giants against 6ft 11in (2.11m) fellow American Reilly Opelka 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5).
World number three Wozniacki, who made her Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne last year, opened her defence with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck.
It was an emotional win for the Dane who is struggling with rheumatoid arthritis and she was in tears afterwards.
“Last year I had some special memories and just to be able to be back out here on Rod Laver Arena is something extremely special and emotional,” she said.
Second seed and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber was also impressive, sweeping past Slovenia’s Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-2.
Sharapova, a winner at Melbourne in 2008, signalled her intent with a rare 6-0, 6-0 double bagel demolition of Britain’s Harriet Dart.
Playing in her 15th Australian Open, the three-time finalist said she was pleased to go through so easily as she battles back from injuries.
“It was a good test for my leg, for my shoulder,” she said.
“I’m still working through some painful days. But, you know, I felt like I did all the right things today in order to get through that match.”
Fifth seeded Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion who struggled in her warm-up tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney, got back to business with an easy two-set win against fellow American Taylor Townsend.AFP