Rafael Nadal began his bid to reclaim the Wimbledon title from Roger Federer in determined mood as the world number one eased to victory in his opener on Centre Court today.
Second seed Nadal bulldozed his way into round two with an assured win over spirited wild card Kei Nishikori.
The Majorca native, champion at SW19 in 2008, looked at home in the Wimbledon sunshine as he took to the Wimbledon grass for the first time in two years after missing out with tendinitis 12 months ago.
Faced with 80-degree heat and a talented Japanese opponent, Nadal kept his cool to post a 6-2 6-4 6-4 triumph.
Next up for the five-time French Open champion is an encounter with Holland’s Robin Haase, who defeated James Blake of the USA in three sets, 6-2 6-4 6-4.
Reflecting on his Centre Court return, Nadal said: “It’s always special to play on this court.
“I’m very happy to come back to this tournament and play in probably the most beautiful and emblematic court in the world.
“The feeling is always amazing. And after the victory in 2008, it is a little bit more special.”
Fernando Verdasco became the biggest men’s casualty so far when he was beaten 7-6 (11/9) 6-2 6-7 (6/8) 6-4 by Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
The eighth seed would have fancied his chances of at least matching his fourth-round appearance of last year but instead he fell at the first hurdle.
Fognini is ranked down at 80th in the world and his record at Wimbledon before today showed one win in two appearances.
Andy Murray recovered from a shaky start to cruise through his match against Jan Hajek in a rare appearance on Court One.
The British number one is more used to being centre stage at Wimbledon but it was not an extended stay on the All England Club’s second court as he dispatched his Czech opponent 7-5 6-1 6-2.
Things did not look quite so straightforward when Hajek broke in only the third game but Murray levelled at 4-4 and from then on it was one-way traffic in favour of the world number four.
Murray was happy with his performance, saying: “I thought it was good. The start was tough, I hadn’t seen him play much but I started to play better once I got the break back and the second and third sets were much better.”
Robin Soderling barely broke sweat as he booked his place in the second round with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 victory over Robby Ginepri.
The sixth-seeded Swede enjoyed the upper hand throughout the contest, breaking the hapless world number 72 five times in a Centre Court encounter that lasted just one hour and 18 minutes.
Ninth seed David Ferrer advanced with little drama as he dispatched unseeded German Nicolas Kiefer 6-4 6-2 6-3, while 10th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga survived a gruelling four-set battle with American Robert Kendrick, prevailing 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (8/6) 3-6 6-4.
Britain’s Jamie Baker suffered defeat by Andreas Beck despite making a battling start to his fourth Wimbledon appearance.
Baker took the German all the way in the first set but a dropped service game in each of the next sets saw him lose 7-6 6-3 6-4.
Mikhail Youzhny, the 13th seed from Russia, was a 6-3 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7/2) victor over Dudi Sela of Israel, while there was an early exit for Nicolas Almagro, the 19th seed from Spain, who lost 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (9/7) 6-2 at the hands of Italy’s Andreas Seppi. The 24th seed, Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, was ousted 6-3 2-6 6-3 6-1 by Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko.
Thomaz Bellucci, the 25th seed from Brazil, progressed in straight sets against compatriot Ricardo Mello, while 26th-seeded Gilles Simon of France did likewise against Spain’s Guillermo Alcaide.
Paul-Henri Mathieu triumphed in four sets in the all-French clash with Marc Gicquel, 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-1.
Other winners today included Ukrainian duo Alexandr Dolgopolov and Illya Marchenko, Sam Querrey of the USA, France’s Florent Serra, Martin Fischer of Austria and 33rd seed Philipp Petzschner.