Nadal advances after tight first set

RAFAEL NADAL was one point away from losing the first set before rallying to take command of his first-round match with American Robert Kendrick to move into the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The first set was decided 8-6 in a tiebreaker after which the second seed upped the tempo and closed out the remaining sets 6-3 6-2.

In other matches, American James Blake, in a repeat of last week’s Medibank International final in Sydney, proved too good for Spaniard Carlos Moya as he charged to a 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 6-4 win.

Eighth seed David Nalbandian, meanwhile, had to claw his way back from the brink of defeat early in the day against Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.

Braving the unrelenting sun, out in the Margaret Court Arena, the world number eight made life difficult for himself after dropping the first two sets 6-7 (5-7) 4-6.

However, just as the prospect of an early exit was looming large, last year’s semi-finalist rallied and moved into the lead 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 2-1 before Tipsarevic retired.

In stark contrast to Nalbandian’s performance, Russian Nikolay Davydenko breezed through his opening-round match with a 6-2 7-5 6-2 win over Argentinian Sergio Roitman.

Thirteenth-seed Tomas Berdych booked a second-round berth before play was abandoned on the outside courts, defeating Korean Hyung-Taik Lee 6-1 6-2 6-2, while defeated quarter-finalist in 2006, Sebastien Grosjean, was also lucky to get his match out of the way before the heat made play almost unbearable.

Taking the first set 6-2, the Frenchman looked in deft touch as he cantered to a 4-1 lead in the second before Belgian Christophe Rochus retired from the match with breathing difficulties.

In the evening session, top local hope, Lleyton Hewitt, was down two sets and a break in the third before he found his rhythm to progress 3-6 2-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 against American qualifier Michael Russell.

Twelfth-seed Tommy Haas pro-gressed with relative ease, downing Spaniard Albert Montanes 7-5 6-1 7-6(3), but tenth-seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile had to work harder to overcome Russian Evgeny Korolev 6-7(4) 7-6(6) 6-3 6-2.

Russian Dmitry Tursunov, seeded 21st, also lost the first set before finishing strongly to defeat Alexander Waske of Germany 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-4.

The biggest scalp to be claimed on day two was that of 23rd-seed Robin Soderling of Sweden, who was dispatched by German Florian Mayer 3-6 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-0, while 29th-seed Xavier Malisse and 32nd-seed Nicolas Almagro also made their exits — Malisse to Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-3 3-6 7-5 6-4 and Almagro to American Robbie Ginepri 4-6 6-2 4-6 7-5 6-3.

Max Mirnyi had his hands full with Luis Horna before advancing with a 7-6(4) 3-6 2-6 6-4 6-4 win, while Fabrice Santoro cruised to a 7-6(5) 6-3 6-0 victory over Igor Kunitsyn.

Juan Martin Del Potro was equally untroubled by Alessio Di Mauro, whom he defeated 6-3 6-3 6-1.

In the women’s section, former US Open champion, Kim Clijsters, marched through the first round with ease.

She made short work of Vasilisa Bardina under a closed roof in the Rod Laver Arena.

The Belgian spent just 44 minutes on centre court as she swept to a 6-0 6-0 win over the Russian.

Martina Hingis was also in dominant form as she wrapped up a straight-sets victory over Nathalie Dechy.

After taking the first set 6-0, the sixth seed quickly ensured her place in the second round, closing out the match 6-2.

Rising Serbian star, Ana Ivanovic, booked a second-round berth at the expense of American Vania King, winning 6-2 6-0.

And Australian Samantha Stosur was equally efficient in her opening match of the tournament.

Despite being made to wait hours to commence her clash with Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, the 24th seed showed no sign of frustration as she sealed victory 6-3 6-1.

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