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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Federer, Nadal glide through Day 1

MELBOURNE, Australia – Four-time champion Roger Federer and second-ranked Rafael Nadal beat qualifiers on the first day of the Australian Open Monday. Defending champion Kim Clijsters and top- seeded Caroline Wozniacki also began with straight-set wins.

Federer, who won his record-extending 16th Grand Slam championship at Melbourne Park two years ago, defeated Russia’s Alexander Kudryavtsev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

Nadal beat Alex Kuznetsov of the United States and later said he wasn’t sure that he would be able to play his opener because of pain in his right knee that occurred when he was sitting on a chair Sunday.

“I really don’t understand what happened, but I am really happy that today I was ready to play,” Spain’s Nadal said in a news conference.

“I was much more scared about the first match than the rest, because now I have 48 hours to the next match.”

For the first time since the 2005 French Open, Federer and Nadal are on the same side of the draw at a major, meaning only one of them can reach the Jan. 29 final.

Nadal won his lone Australian Open title in 2009 by beating Switzerland’s Federer.

Former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, seventh seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and American Mardy Fish, the No. 8 seed, advanced as players were greeted by temperatures as high as 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seeded Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez also won, while countryman Fernando Verdasco blew a two- set lead and lost in five sets to teenager Bernard Tomic, the top-ranked Australian in the men’s draw at No. 38.

“I don’t know how I found the energy to lift,” Tomic, who next will play Sam Querrey of the U.S., said after winning 4-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in 4 hours, 11 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I really don’t know how I won.”

Nadal’s 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Kuznetsov set up a matchup with three-time semifinalist Tommy Haas of Germany in the second round. Federer, who withdrew from his last tournament with a back injury, said he was “100 percent fit” after taking 1 hour, 38 minutes to get past Kudryavtsev.

Argentina’s Del Potro, the only man other than Nadal, Federer and top-ranked Novak Djokovic to win one of the past 27 majors, beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.

Del Potro is seeded 11th after lifting his ranking from a low of 485 last year following a wrist injury that sidelined him for 10 months in 2010. He was named the ATP World Tour’s 2011 Comeback Player of the Year.

“I am still improving my game: I hope to be closer to the top players,” Del Potro told reporters. “It’s a big tournament here to see where my game is.”

Clijsters, the women’s No. 11, beat Portuguese qualifier Maria Joao Koehler 7-5, 6-1.

The Belgian entered the season- opening major after retiring from a semifinal in Brisbane earlier this month due to a hip injury.

“I’m feeling good,” Clijsters said in a televised interview. “That’s all behind me. Your body has to get used to it.

“It doesn’t matter how hard you train in the offseason, matches still put a strain on your body.”

Denmark’s Wozniacki, who also arrived in Melbourne with injury concerns after hurting her wrist, closed play on Rod Laver Arena by beating Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-1 as she tries to win her first Grand Slam title.

Third-seeded Victoria Azarenka, one of six women in the field who can reach the No. 1 ranking at the conclusion of the two-week event, earlier became the first player to advance.

The Belarusian won 12 straight games to overpower unseeded Briton Heather Watson 6-1, 6-0 in 67 minutes.

Azarenka, who tuned up for Melbourne by winning the Sydney International last week for her ninth career title, next will face Australian wild-card recipient Casey Dellacqua.

“Now is a good opportunity,” Azarenka told reporters. “I feel good playing.”