Former No. 1 still alive at Aussie Open
MELBOURNE, Australia – Rafael Nadal, who lost his No. 1 ranking and six finals to Novak Djokovic last year, wondered if he’d even be able to play his first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday after his right knee cracked and cramped and caused him “unbelievable pain” on the eve of the tournament.
He already had plenty on his mind going into the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. There was his ailing shoulder and his spat with Roger Federer over player conditions on the tour, a rare clash between these respectful rivals that has since been smoothed over.
After hours of medical tests and treatment, Nadal decided to play but was “scared” when he took the court against American qualifier Alex Kuznetsov. Judging by the scoreline, the outcome looked very matter of fact: Nadal won 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.
Nadal and Federer are in the same half of the draw at a major for the first time since 2005.
Third-seeded Federer started his bid for a 17th major title with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia, showing no signs of a back problem which forced him out of a Doha tournament earlier this month. He then just as quickly batted away any notion of a simmering feud with Nadal. Ever the statesman, Federer conceded that players differed on ways of resolving certain issues and “things are fine between us ... We can’t always agree on everything.”
Mardy Fish, the highest-ranked of the American men, opened with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.
After surrendering her opening service game with a double-fault, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova won 12 consecutive games in a 6-2, 6-0 win Tuesday over Russia’s Vera Dushevina to move into the second round.
Wearing the purple color synonymous with Wimbledon, the No. 2-ranked Kvitova underlined her growing stature on the women’s tour by not giving Dushevina a second chance. The 21-year-old Czech broke her Russian rival’s serve three times in each set and finished off Tuesday’s opening match on Rod Laver Arena in an hour.
Kvitova reached the quarterfinals here last year at the start of a season in which she surged up the rankings. Last week, she missed a chance to overhaul Caroline Wozniacki’s No. 1 ranking when she lost in the Sydney International semifinals. She needed to win the Sydney tournament to take the top ranking.
But she gets another chance at Melbourne Park, where she’s one of six women who can finish No. 1.
“I have great memories of this court from last year, when I came out, everything came back in my head,” she said in a post-match TV interview. “It was nice.”
It gave her the confidence to win her first major later in the year.
The Wimbledon title “was a surprise for me,” she said. “Nobody expected it, or knew I could be No. 2.”
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