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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Tennis: Nadal, Murray cruise at Australian Open as Ivanovic crashes

AFP , Monday 19 Jan 2015
Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia during their men's singles first round match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 19, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Big guns Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray successfully blasted their way into the Australian Open second round Monday but the Grand Slam dream of Ana Ivanovic was shattered.

Third seed Nadal and sixth seed Murray both enjoyed straight sets wins, with rising stars Simona Halep and Grigor Dimitrov also progressing comfortably on a cool and windy Melbourne day.

It was different story for fifth seed Ivanovic, a former world number one who came into the tournament full of confidence after a stellar 2014 that saw her climb the rankings.

She started well against unheralded world number 142 Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, easily winning the first set, but went to pieces during the match, eventually crashing 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

"I really struggled to find my rhythm today, I was just a little bit lost," said the stunned Serb, a perennial crowd favourite in Australia where she has family.

Ninth seeded German Angelique Kerber also failed to live up to the hype, eliminated in three sets by Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.

World number three Nadal had no such problems and was in full control against Russian Mikhail Youzhny, showing few signs of the injuries that disrupted his 2014 season.

The Spanish 14-time Grand Slam champion romped to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win, conceding just one break point on his serve.

"A very positive result for me," said Nadal, who missed the end of last year due to appendicitis and has also struggled with ongoing back and wrist injuries.

"Always before the first match you have doubts, especially in this situation I'm arriving here.

"It is never easy and it was an important match for me. It was a comfortable victory that give me some confidence."
Fellow tournament favourites Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova play later Monday, while top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic and defending men's champion Stan Wawrinka are in action on Tuesday.

Women's champion Li Na of China has retired and is not taking part.

Murray was given a testing workout by promising Indian Yuki Bhambri before emerging a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) winner.

Murray, who is bidding to become the first player to win the Australian Open after losing three finals at Melbourne Park, said he was pleased with the state of his tennis under coach Amelie Mauresmo.

"I've been playing very well in the practices and striking the ball cleanly in the matches. If I keep that up I'll keep getting better each round," he said.
- Windy conditions challenging -

World number three Halep opened the 2015 proceedings with the wind swirling around Rod Laver Arena, carving out a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Italy's Karin Knapp.

The Romanian, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park last year, is looking to build on a breakthrough 2014 when she reached the French Open final and the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

The 23-year-old admitted she felt anxious appearing in the first centre court match of this year's tournament and struggled to put away Knapp, ranked number 50 in the world.

"It was a tough match for me and I was very nervous before the match, but I'm very happy now and I'm sure that next time I'll play better," she said.

Tenth seed Dimitrov, dubbed "Baby Fed" for his playing similarities to Swiss great Federer and a picture-perfect one-handed backhand, also progressed with an easy 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over German Dustin Brown.

At the vanguard of the new order of younger men's players, Dimitrov said he was happy with his start but the windy conditions were challenging.

"I think it was just a little tough for everyone to get into that rhythm, to get used to the court. It was pretty windy today," he said.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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