Nadal, Soderling and Murray make easy progress in Melbourne

The top seeds continued their procession through the first round of the Australian Open today to make a mockery of the widely held belief that there is great depth in the men’s game.

The top seeds continued their procession through the first round of the Australian Open today to make a mockery of the widely held belief that there is great depth in the men’s game.

With Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic advancing yesterday for the loss of just 10 games between them, there were more one-sided contests today involving Rafael Nadal, Robin Soderling and Andy Murray.

World number one Nadal won 11 games without reply against Marcos Daniel before the Brazilian mercifully opted to succumb to a knee injury while Murray was well in control of his match against Karol Beck when the Slovakian also had to quit.

The Scot had established a 6-3 6-1 4-2 advantage when Beck called it a day due to a shoulder problem.

Soderling was at least required to finish his match, beating Potito Starace 6-4 6-2 6-2.

Although he was pleased to have conserved plenty of energy against Daniel, Nadal admitted he was none the wiser as to where he stood in terms of form and fitness.

When asked to assess his performance the Spaniard, chasing the “Rafa Slam” after victories at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year, said: “It’s difficult to say whether I played well or badly.

“I think I played alright, I hit some good shots and some bad shots. The serve can be a bit better. I feel I have to improve if I want to do well here.”

Nadal, who went straight off to the practice courts after the game, could empathise with Daniel after having to retire from his match against Murray in the quarter-finals here last year.

“It’s a terrible feeling and I wish him all the best,” he added. “He’s a really nice guy and I feel sorry for him.

“You don’t want to retire but if you are bad it is for the best so you can recover as quickly as possible. It’s difficult when you have to pull out of a big tournament, last year was a difficult time for me.”

Beck was, in patches, competitive against Murray but the world number five’s class showed at crucial times as he combined stoic defence with some thrilling winners.

Murray, chasing his first grand slam crown, took the first set after breaking in Beck’s first service game and ran through the second.

The Slovakian took a medical timeout at 2-1 down but battled on bravely until dropping his serve once more to hand Murray a 4-2 lead.

Sensing he was not going to turn it around, Beck offered his hand at the net rather than carry on and risk further damage.

Murray said: “Like I said before the tournament, everyone always has slight doubts before the start, you are always a bit nervous.

“But getting off to a good start, getting a break early in the match does help a lot, which I managed to do. It is nice to be through to the second round with no drama.”

Fourth seed Soderling was pleased to have also made untroubled progress.

“Winning in straight sets, it’s a very good start,” said the Swede. “I struggled a little bit in the first set but I think after that I played better and better. At the end, I played pretty good.”

Juan Martin Del Potro’s long-awaited return to grand slam tennis started in encouraging fashion with a 7-6 (15/13) 6-4 6-4 defeat of Israel’s Dudi Sela.

The Argentinian former US Open winner, who has not competed at a major since last year in Australia due to a wrist injury, admitted he was simply pleased to be back among some familiar faces.

He said: “I feel good. It’s nice for me be here with these players, at this tournament, and of course playing a grand slam. Today I played good tennis again and I’m really enjoying this week.

“I have met with all the players, especially the top 10 players. They supported me when I was injured but now I can say thank you to them face to face. I’m still improving my game but I feel good with my wrist.”

Seventh seed David Ferrer advanced today, seeing off Jarkko Nieminen in four sets, as did 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny, who beat Marsel Ilhan, 11th seed Jurgen Melzer – a 6-2 6-4 6-2 victor over Vincent Millot, and number 15 Marin Cilic, who proved too strong for Donald Young.

Exciting young Australian Bernard Tomic and big-serving American John Isner also progressed.

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