x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rafael Nadal and Vera Zvonareva advance in Australian Open

The Spaniard, aiming to hold all four major titles at the same time, was 6-0, 5-0, ahead before his opponent retires through injury.

Rafael Nadal's first-round match lastes just 47 minutes.
Rafael Nadal's first-round match lastes just 47 minutes.

MELBOURNE // Rafael Nadal's quest to hold all four major titles at the same time at the Australian Open started with a first-round victory that lasted only 47 minutes and helped conserve plenty of energy.

Nadal led 6-0, 5-0 when his Brazilian opponent Marcos Daniel retired with a left knee injury.

The Spaniard, 24, sympathised with Daniel. Nadal retired from the last Australian Open with an injured knee in a quarter-final defeat to Andy Murray. But Nadal 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 major trophies at the same time.

"It's 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."

Good season is the understatement of the tournament. Nadal won the French Open, then Wimbledon and finally claimed his first US Open title. With Tuesday's victory, he's now on a roll of 22 consecutive match wins in grand slam tournaments.

"I came back after a difficult situation. Winning Roland Garros was very important, it allowed me to play the rest of the season with a little bit more calm."

Daniel has a medical time out at the end of the first set and had his left knee heavily strapped.

When the Brazilian had a break point in the second game of the second set, he raised both arms and received a rousing cheer from the crowd. When Nadal had a rare miss with a wild overhead that sailed over the baseline to give the Brazilian a second break-point chance, the crowd went while again.

Nadal finally held after the game went to deuce five times and it progressively seemed only a matter of time before Daniel would retire as he limped around.

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 major final with a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win over Sybille Bammer in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena.

Zvonareva, who lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and to Kim Clijsters in the US 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 conceded only four points in the first four games of the second set and did not 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.