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Tennis: Nadal returns in style, Djokovic wins in China

AFP, Tuesday 30 Sep 2014
Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal (Photo: Reuters)

Rafael Nadal made an emphatic return to singles competition Tuesday after being sidelined for three months, sweeping aside Richard Gasquet of France in the $5.4 million China Open.

The 14-times Grand Slam winner won his first round match in Beijing 6-4, 6-0, overcoming sporadic resistance in the first set before crushing his 22nd-ranked opponent in the second.

There were glimpses of vintage Nadal during the second set demolition, with the Spaniard appearing to be back to his athletic best after being sidelined since Wimbledon with a wrist injury picked up in training.

The world number three broke his 28-year-old opponent's serve in the third game, and while Gasquet brought Nadal to break-point at the next two opportunities, he failed to claw his way back into the set.

Gasquet lost his serve at the opening game of the second set, and then brought Nadal to the brink of losing his own with some acrobatic netplay.

But that turned out to be his last show of defiance as the French Open champion powered his way to a "bagel" in his return to singles competition.

The left-handed Mallorcan played a rare doubles match in Beijing on Monday, which he lost.

Nadal joins top seed Novak Djokovic in the second round after the reigning champion in Beijing won his game after a shaky start.

The Serb defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-2, 6-1 in just 63 minutes, but took a while to get into his stride, trading a series of serves with his opponent early on.

Djokovic will face Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the next round as he bids for his fifth title in Beijing, a tournament he has won every year since 2009, apart from 2011 when he did not take part.

The winner that year, world number six Tomas Berdych, eased past Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-2 in his first round match.

The third seed Czech is chasing points as he pushes to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in November.

He is currently in eighth position in the race for the London tournament and must at least remain in that position if he is to make the season finale of the top eight players.

Only five berths are available as the world's top three players -- Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer -- have already confirmed their place for London.

Sharapova through

Elsewhere in the men's competition, eighth seed American John Isner beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-1, 6-3.

In the women's tournament, Sharapova was facing a potential banana skin in her match with Elina Svitolina. Her Ukrainian opponent was full of confidence following her appearance in the Wuhan Open semi-finals last week.

The pair matched each other early in the game before Sharapova broke her opponent in the fourth game, and then appeared to take command of the set at 5-1.

The Russian world number four made it more difficult for herself by allowing Svitolina to break back before she finally clinched the set.

Sharapova traded breaks with the 33rd-ranked player midway through the second set, before she powered through with a 6-2, 6-2 scoreline.

The French Open champion will play her third-round match against either 14th seed Italian Flavia Pennetta or Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

Fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, meanwhile, has now failed to get past the second round in her last two tournaments in China, losing to Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-4, 6-4 in Beijing.

Radwanska was hoping for a deep run at the China Open to seal her place in next month's WTA Finals, the season-ending finale in Singapore featuring the world's top eight women players.

The Pole was last week dumped out of the Wuhan Open in the second round by 20-year-old French rising star Caroline Garcia 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (9/7).

Eight seed Canadian Eugenie Bouchard -- the runner-up in Wuhan -- also crashed out of the tournament, losing to Germany's Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 6-4.

But there was no upset for second seed Romanian Simona Halep who defeated home-crowd favourite Zhu Lin 7-5, 6-4.

The China Open is being held at the Olympic Park in the Chinese capital and will reach its climax on October 5.

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