MELBOURNE, Australia - Rafael Nadal's quest to complete his "Rafa Slam" at the Australian Open started with a first-round victory that lasted 47 minutes and helped him conserve energy.
Nadal had a 6-0, 5-0 lead when his Brazilian opponent, Marcos Daniel, retired with a left knee injury early today.
The 24-year-old Spaniard sympathized with Daniel. Nadal retired from the last Australian Open with an injured knee in a quarterfinal loss to Andy Murray. But he recovered quickly and won the next three majors and is now aiming to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam trophies at the same time.
“It’s a terrible feeling, for sure. I wish him all the best for a fast recovery,” Nadal said after the match. “Last year was a really difficult time when I played this tournament. I came back here playing well but to go out like that was hard mentally.
“Finally, I had a very good season in 2010.”
That’s an understatement. Nadal won the French Open, then Wimbledon and finally claimed his first U.S. Open title. He has won 22 consecutive Grand Slam matches.
Australian wild-card entry Bernard Tomic advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Jeremy Chardy of France. He is a potential third-round opponent for Nadal.
Hoping a third time will be luckier, Vera Zvonareva began her bid to reach a third consecutive Grand Slam final with a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win over Sybille Bammer in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena.
Zvonareva, who lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and to Kim Clijsters in the U.S. Open final last year, dominated the first set against the 30-year-old Bammer and tightened her grip on the match in the second. She lost only four points in the first four games of the second set and didn’t allow the Austrian to hold until the sixth game.
“It’s tough to play your best tennis in the first match. The most important thing is I’ve done what I needed to do and moved through to the next one,” Zvonareva said.
Nadal’s run to the second round came a day after two rivals, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, got their campaigns started with straight-sets wins Monday.
Defending champion Federer dismantled Lukas Lacko, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.
Djokovic took no chances against Marcus Granollers, soundly beating the 24-year-old Spaniard, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
Eighth-seeded American Andy Roddick had a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic.
His U.S. Davis Cup teammates had a tougher time. Mardy Fish rallied from two sets down to win in five, 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, over Victor Hanescu of Romania. And Sam Querrey lost in five sets, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6, to Lukasz Kubot of Poland.