Top seeds advance in Australia

Updated: January 16, 2012

Rafael Nadal has a new injury scare — a tendon problem in his right knee that nearly forced him to forfeit a first-round match at the Australian Open that he managed to win easily.

Roger Federer, defending champion Kim Clijsters and top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, also bothered by injuries coming into the tournament, all advanced to the second round in more routine fashion and appeared as if they were over their ailments.

That wasn’t the case with Nadal. Bothered by a left shoulder injury late last year, Nadal had his right knee heavily taped during his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Alex Kuznetsov. The injury occurred in the most innocent of ways — sitting in a chair in his hotel room when he felt “a crack” in his knee and some “unbelievable pain.”

He had an MRI scan late Sunday that showed no major damage to his knee, but before that, the incident left him thinking “I wasn’t 100 percent sure I would have a chance to play.”

“That’s in the past,” Nadal said when asked about his shoulder injury in a post-match television interview. But it was a different story later when he talked about his knee.

“I was sitting on a chair in the hotel, I felt like a crack on the knee … really strange, he said. “I stand up. I felt the knee a little bit strange. I moved the leg like this two times to try to find the feeling. After the second time, the knee stays with an unbelievable pain completely straight. I have no movement on the knee.”

“The best thing is I felt the knee very well. I really don’t understand why happened everything, but I am really happy that today I was ready to play and I played a fantastic match.”

Federer, who pulled out of a tournament in Doha two weeks ago with back soreness, began the quest for his 17th Grand Slam title — and first since the 2010 Australian Open — with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev.

It was Federer’s 60th win at the Australian Open, and he also has 60-plus wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The third-seeded Federer took the first two sets and was up a break in the third before the Russian rallied with a break of serve in the fifth game of the final set. Federer, however, broke Kudryavtsev in the next game with a backhand crosscourt winner and sealed the match when the Russian hit a forehand wide.

“No problem, I am happy to be 100 percent fit,” Federer said after his win.

He batted away just as quickly speculation about a possibly divisive issue with Nadal.

Nadal was critical of Federer on Sunday for not speaking out publicly in support of players who are pushing the ATP for changes in areas such as tournament scheduling and prize money.

“Things are fine between us, you know. I have no hard feelings towards him,” Federer said. “It’s been a difficult last few months in terms of politics within the ATP.

Nadal has “mentioned many times how he gets a bit tired and frustrated through the whole process, and I shared that with him. It’s normal. But for me, obviously nothing changes in terms of our relationship. I’m completely cool and relaxed about it.”

Defending women’s champion Clijsters opened with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Portuguese qualifier Maria Joao Koehler, showing no signs of the hip spasms which forced her to withdraw from a tuneup event in Brisbane 10 day ago.

Wozniacki, who injured her left wrist in a quarterfinal loss at the Sydney International, showed no signs of discomfort while easily beating Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-1 in the last match of the evening on Rod Laver Arena.

“I got a bit nervous about my wrist in Sydney, but I am happy I could play full-out tonight,” Wozniacki said.

Li Na, who lost the Australian final to Clijsters last year, had a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan. In the first featured match of the tournament, third-seeded Victoria Azarenka won 12 straight games to finish off Heather Watson 6-1, 6-0 in 67 minutes in the opening match on center court.

Li was a trailblazer for China last year, reaching a Grand Slam singles final for the first time before losing to Clijsters at Melbourne Park. At the subsequent major, she won the French Open to become the first player from China to win a Grand Slam singles title.

“I hope I can go one better this year,” Li said of her Australian Open campaign. She had a confidence-boosting buildup that included match wins at the Hopman Cup and Sydney.

Of the six women who can reach the top ranking, eighth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska has the biggest task, having to win the Australian title. She had a battle on her hands just to make the second round, fending off American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-2 in a three-hour match on Show Court 2.

Other women advancing included No. 16-seeded Peng Shuai of China, No. 20 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, No. 22 Julia Goerges, No. 26 Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain and Eleni Daniilidou of Greece beat 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-3, 6-2.

No. 19 Flavia Pennetta, No. 23 Lucie Safarova and No. 28 Yanina Wickmayer were among the first-round losers.

Most of the local attention Monday was on 19-year-old Bernard Tomic, who rallied from two sets down to beat No. 22-seeded Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. A five-set win over the 2009 semifinalist will no doubt give Tomic a confidence boost as he attempts to become the first Australian man since 1976 to win the national title.

“Today wasn’t fun, it was torture,” said Tomic, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year. “I don’t know how I found the energy to lift, how I did it, but I thank the crowd.”

Eighth-seeded Mardy Fish, the highest ranked of the U.S. men, had a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Gilles Muller to progress along with 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, No. 7 Tomas Berdych, No. 10 Nicolas Almagro, No. 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov, No. 18 Feliciano Lopez, No. 21 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and No. 30 Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

No. 25 Juan Monaco, No. 28 Ivan Ljubicic and No. 31 Jurgen Melzer joined Verdasco as other seeded players to lose.

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