Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Sports | By Juana Wells

Rafael Nadal blazes through to Australian Open second round

Rafael Nadal blazes through to Australian Open second round

The first meeting between the 17-times Grand Slam champion, a victor at Melbourne Park in 2009, and Australian wildcard Duckworth, who is ranked 238 in the world, always had the potential to be an uneven contest.

Five-time Grand Slam victor Maria Sharapova warned she can not be written off at this year's Australian Open after serving a 6-0, 6-0 "double bagel" to Britain's Harriet Dart in the first round Monday.

The 21-year-old Opelka, an inch taller than the 6ft-10in Isner (2.08m), broke the ninth seed's flawless 9-0 winning record against Americans at the Grand Slams in a match featuring 87 aces.

The 17-time major victor 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.

The 2009 victor had pulled out of the Brisbane International warm-up with a thigh strain but showed no signs of the problem in his opener.

"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.

"When I get broken was not because of the serve", said the second seed who dished up just a single double fault. 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.

The second set followed the same pattern, with Dart finally put out of her misery trying to save match point when she hit a return wide despite having an open court before her.

Nadal had promised to unveil a remodelled, improved serve at the first Grand Slam of the year and the new action was going smoothly until he served for the match at 5-3 in the third set only for Duckworth to break to love.

He would like to finish at Wimbledon, but admitted the Australian Open could be his last tournament. Edmund's top result at a major came a year ago in Melbourne.

In the other match, fifth-seed Kevin Anderson also progressed to the second round with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over 2018 Wimbledon finalist Adrian Mannarino. Also advancing on the men's side were No. 19 Nikoloz Basilashvili and No. 26 Fernando Verdasco.

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