Australian Open

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Nadal start to ‘Rafa slam’ quest sets dominant tone

Reuters) - Rafa Nadal opened his hotly anticipated Australian Open campaign with a ruthless dispatch of an ailing Brazilian journeyman on Tuesday, setting the tone for a day of pitifully one-sided contests at Melbourne Park.

A second Australian Open title would make Nadal the first man in more than four decades to hold the quartet of grand slam titles at the same time, and his first step was taken with single-minded purpose.

Brazilian Marcos Daniel mustered up just 12 points in 46 minutes before he decided his injured left knee, and possibly his pride, could take no more and he called an end to the contest with Nadal leading 6-0 5-0.

The world number one knows very well the pain of injury having hobbled out of Melbourne Park in the quarter-finals when his own knees gave up on him last year, and he was full of sympathy for his 32-year-old opponent.

“He tried his best during the match,” said the Spanish top seed. “He didn’t want to retire. That says a lot for him. Not everybody’s able to do this. So all the respect to him.”

The short contest left Nadal, who was struggling with flu in the run up to the tournament, with little better idea of the level of his game.

“It’s difficult to say I played really well or I played bad,” he added. “I think I played right. I played some good shots, some long shots. The serve can be a little bit better. Yeah, that’s the only point that I think I can improve.”

Clijsters says sorry for Safina ‘double bagel’

Jan 18 (Reuters) - Belgium’s Kim Clijsters said she felt sorry for Dinara Safina after inflicting the dreaded ‘double bagel’ on the Russian with a 6-0 6-0 first round blowout at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

It was an embarrassingly lopsided match between two former world number ones, Safina fighting back the tears as she trudged to the net after a 44-minute humiliation. “I do feel bad,” Clijsters told reporters after whitewashing the Russian. “I even caught myself at 5-0 in the second set, she hit a couple of backhands down the line, I was like ‘Yeah, that’s it!’

“When she doesn’t play against me, I’m rooting for her because I want her to get back into it and build confidence.”

Clijsters added with a smile: “But I wouldn’t give her a (sympathy) game.” When Venus Williams walloped Safina 6-1 6-0 in the Wimbledon semi-finals two years ago, the result was the most lopsided win over a current world number one at a grand slam event. On Tuesday, the Russian suffered a new low when the WTA said she became the first woman to have been ranked number one to lose 6-0 6-0 since the standings system began in 1975.

Belgian Clijsters, a three-times grand slam champion and Melbourne finalist in 2004, insisted Safina could still find a way out of her slump in form. “It’s obviously a big matter of confidence as well,” said Clijsters, who won two of her major titles after returning to the women’s game in 2009 following a two-year break. “That game is still in her. She didn’t get to number one just by luck.”

Clijsters, who could return to the number one spot if results go her way at the year’s first slam, took the first set with a ferocious backhand down the line after just 20 minutes.

Roger Federer to face French nemesis at Melbourne Park

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer’s bid for a fifth Australian Open title gets serious on Wednesday with a second round clash against Frenchman Gilles Simon, one of the few players boasting a winning record against the Swiss maestro.

The 34th-ranked Simon’s record of eight career titles is exactly half of Federer’s grand slam count, but the nippy baseline hustler’s two-nil head-to-head over a player regarded by many as the greatest of all time is no idle brag.

Simon, whose ranking peaked at six in 2009, beat Federer in three sets at the 2008 Toronto Masters and then repeated the feat a few months later in a round robin match at the Masters Cup in Shanghai as the Swiss struggled with a back injury.