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Ruthless Nadal, Wozniacki fly into Open round two

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — A ruthless Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in a clinical first-round thumping at the Australian Open yesterday, 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 for a foot injury, cruised into round two of the year's opening major 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 against Australian wild card James Duckworth.

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.

Roger Federer opens his title defence later against Denis Istomin.

The Swiss maestro, seeded three, has won the last two Australian Opens and is gunning for a record seventh crown and 21st Grand Slam title.

Former world number one Andy Murray also takes to the court for what could be his farewell match in Melbourne, and potentially his last ever.

He tearfully revealed last week that severe pain from a hip injury was proving too much to bear and he planned to retire this year, hopefully at Wimbledon but possibly after the Australian Open.

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.

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.

Eleventh seed Aryna Sabalenka, widely tipped as a potential future champion, also safely negotiated round one on a hot day. But Germany's 14th seed Julia Goerges was knocked out, as was former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Britain's Katie Boulter, meanwhile, created a slice of history by becoming the first woman to win in a third set tiebreak — new rule introduced to the Open this year.

Instead of playing to the death, third or fifth sets now go to a tiebreak when the score reaches 6-6, and it becomes the first to 10.

It seemed Boulter wasn't told, fist-pumping and walking to the net at 7/4 before being reminded of the new rule. She went on to beat Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (10/6).


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