Grass growing on upbeat Nadal

RAFAEL NADAL believes his grasscourt game is better than ever after getting his quest for a first Wimbledon title under way with a big serving victory over qualifier Andreas Beck.

The Spanish second seed hammered down 17 aces to overcome the world number 122 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7/0) on Centre Court and set up a tough second-round clash with improving Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

Nadal, runner-up for the last two years, has been tipped by many to deny Roger Federer a sixth straight title this year and is convinced he is closer to his goal this time around.

Nadal said: “I have reached the Wimbledon final for the last two years so it is very difficult to say I am a better player. But I am a more complete player because I have more options.”

He did admit however that he faced a tough test from Gulbis. “I have a difficult draw. I am playing a very tough opponent — one of the worst opponents I can play in the second round, being the second seed. Gulbis is a good player and very aggressive.”

Meanwhile, Nikolay Davydenko is confident he will be cleared when the ATP announce the findings of their investigation into match-fixing next month.

The Russian fourth seed was dumped out of Wimbledon yesterday with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 defeat by unfancied German Benjamin Becker, becoming the biggest casualty of the championships so far. But there was little chance for Davydenko to digest the upset before he found himself fielding questions about the ATP’s inquiry into events at August’s Poland Open.

Davydenko has been under scrutiny since playing Argentinian Martin Vassallo Arguello, then ranked 87 in the world, in a match that sparked a worldwide betting scandal.

Betfair were alerted to suspicious betting patterns and decided to void more than £3.5million (€4.4m) in bets after Davydenko became a heavy underdog, despite being an overwhelming favourite on paper.

The 27-year-old, who withdrew from the contest in Sopot with a foot injury, has criticised the length of the ATP’s investigation but has been told the ordeal will soon be over.

“This has been a bad dream, not for one day but for months. But I have still been able to play and that has made me happy,” he said. “I have been told by my lawyer that this should be decided in July. This has taken so long – nearly one year. Nobody can prove anything. My lawyer has been waiting one year but there is no proof.”

Andy Murray eased his way into the second round of Wimbledon with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7/5) victory against Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.

The 21-year-old British number one was 14 years younger than his veteran opponent and his superior power and energy made the difference in an entertaining Centre Court match.

And Murray, who now plays Belgium’s Xavier Malisse, was satisfied with his efforts.

He said: “It was a really good first match. He makes it really difficult and he’s unpredictable but I did everything pretty well today.

“It was a really fun match. He hit some awesome shots and really got the atmosphere going but I felt pretty comfortable.”

Sixth seed Andy Roddick reported no ill effects from his recent shoulder problems as he eased past Argentina’s Eduardo Schwank 7-5 6-4 7-6 (7/0) on Court One while last year’s beaten semi-finalist Richard Gasquet produced what he described as one of the best performances of his career to brush aside Mardy Fish 6-3 6-4 6-2 while compatriot, 14th seed Paul-Henri Mathieu, recovered from a poor first set to overwhelm Spaniard Oscar Hernandez 3-6 6-2 6-0 6-2.

The 16th seed Radek Stepanek impressed in overcoming Czech Jan Hernych in straight sets, while other winning seeds included Jarkko Nieminen, Nicolas Kiefer and Tommy Robredo.

Jonas Bjorkman’s 15-year Wimbledon singles career came to an end when the 36-year-old Swede was beaten 4-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 7-6 (7/4) by Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

Croatian 26th seed Ivan Ljubicic was the second seed to fall yesterday as he went down 6-4 7-6 (9/7) 4-6 2-6 6-3 to Austria’s Jurgen Melzer.

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