MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal eased past Russian Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets to successfully negotiate the opening hurdle at the Australian Open on Monday.
The Spanish world number three, recovering from injury, downed Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in 1hr 50min and will next play either Australian Luke Saville or American Tim Smyczek in the second round.
The one-time US Open semi-finalist was considered a testing first-up opponent as Nadal searches for matches to work his way into the men’s draw.
But he only conceded one break point on his serve, while claiming six service breaks on the Russian in a convincing win.
The 14-times Grand Slam winner missed the end of last year due to appendicitis and has also struggled with ongoing back and wrist injuries. Nadal has had very few matches since Wimbledon back in July.
His lack of match fitness was plain to see in Qatar this month when he was humiliated in the first round by German Michael Berrer, a qualifier ranked outside the top 100.