World number two Rafael Nadal blazed into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 demolition of Australian wildcard James Duckworth while big-serving fifth seed Kevin Anderson began his campaign with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over Adrian Mannarino.
The Spanish 17-time Grand Slam champion appeared back to full fitness after an injury-plagued 2018 as he raced through in 2hr 15min.
He will next play either Matthew Ebden of Australia or Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.
The South African, a runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, had failed to reach the second round at Melbourne Park since 2015, but made no mistake this time round.
He lost a five-setter to Britain’s Kyle Edmund in round one a year ago and had to overcome a second-set blip Monday, dropping his serve twice from a break up against the French world number 41, before prevailing in two hours 53 minutes on Melbourne Arena.
“It was really hot out here. I thought we were going to hit the heat rule, but no luck,” said Anderson, who faces American Frances Tiafoe, who beat Indian qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran next.
“I was up a break in that second set and just let it get away a little bit,” he added. “I was happy with the way I was able to reset.”
In-form Anderson warmed up for the Australian Open by winning his sixth ATP title at Pune earlier this month, defeating Ivo Karlovic in the final.
“Every day I push myself to get better and better,” said the man who lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2017 US Open final.
“You’ve got to come out here and win the match. It is a difficult challenge but that is what it is all about.”
Fernando Verdasco (ESP x26) bt Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-3
Radu Albot (MDA) bt Michael Mmoh (USA) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Stefano Travaglia (ITA) bt Guido Andreozzi (ARG) 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x19) bt Christopher Eubanks (USA) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3
Kevin Anderson (RSA x5) bt Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-3
Pablo Cuevas (URU) bt Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4, 7-5, 6-1
Robin Haase (NED) bt Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 7-5, 6-4, 7-5
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt James Duckworth (AUS) 6-4, 6-3, 7-5
With inputs from AFP