Federer, Nadal Win at Australia Open Amid Off-Court Dispute

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a return against Heather Watson of Britain in their first round women's singles match on day one of the 2012 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photographer: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Four-time champion Roger Federer and second-ranked Rafael Nadal beat qualifiers on the first day of the Australian Open as defending champion Kim Clijsters and top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki also began with straight-set wins.

Federer, who won his record-extending 16th Grand Slam championship at Melbourne Park two years ago, defeated Russia’s Alexander Kudryavtsev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

After his match, the Swiss played down tension with Nadal. At a pretournament news conference, Nadal said it was easy for Federer to keep quiet and “look like a gentleman” about the gruelling schedule on the men’s tour while everyone else suffers. Federer is president of the player council of the men’s ATP World Tour, while Nadal is vice-president.

Federer told reporters that he had “no hard feelings” towards Nadal. Following a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win against Alexander Kuznetsov of the U.S., Nadal said he’d probably been wrong to make his comments in public. “These things can stay, must stay in the locker room,” Nadal said.

On the second day of the Australian Open, No. 4 seed Andy Murray of Britain plays Ryan Harrison of the U.S. while defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia starts against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi. Former champion Serena Williams of the U.S. faces Tamira Paszek of Austria.

Del Potro Wins

Former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, seventh seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and American Mardy Fish, the No. 8 seed, advanced in temperatures as high as 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit). Seeded Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez also won, while countryman Fernando Verdasco blew a two-set lead and lost in five sets to teenager Bernard Tomic, the top-ranked Australian in the men’s draw at No. 38.

“I don’t know how I found the energy,” Tomic, who next will play Sam Querrey of the U.S., said after winning 4-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in 4 hours, 11 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. “I really don’t know how I won.”

Nadal, who will next play three-time semifinalist Tommy Haas of Germany in the second round, said he wasn’t sure that he would be able to play his opener because of pain in his right knee that occurred when he was sitting on a chair the day before his match.

“I really don’t understand what happened,” Nadal said. “I was much more scared about the first match than the rest, because now I have 48 hours to the next match.”

Clijsters Advances

Argentina’s Del Potro, the only man other than Nadal, Federer and top-ranked Novak Djokovic to win one of the past 27 majors, beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.

No. 25 Juan Monaco of Argentina, 28th-seeded Croat Ivan Ljubicic and No. 31 Jurgen Melzer of Austria joined No. 22 Verdasco as men’s seeds to lose.

Clijsters, the women’s No. 11, beat Portuguese qualifier Maria Joao Koehler 7-5, 6-1. The Belgian entered the season-opening major after retiring from a semifinal in Brisbane earlier this month due to a hip injury.

“I’m feeling good,” Clijsters said in a televised interview. “That’s all behind me. Your body has to get used to it. It doesn’t matter how hard you train in the offseason, matches still put a strain on your body.”

Denmark’s Wozniacki, who also arrived in Melbourne with injury concerns after hurting her wrist, closed play on Rod Laver Arena by beating Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-1 as she tries to win her first Grand Slam title.

No. 1 Ranking

Third-seeded Victoria Azarenka, one of six women in the field who can reach the No. 1 ranking at the conclusion of the two-week event, earlier became the first player to advance. The Belarusian won 12 straight games to overpower unseeded Briton Heather Watson 6-1, 6-0 in 67 minutes.

No. 5 seed Li Na, whom Azarenka beat in the Sydney final, eased to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan. Li lost to Clijsters in last year’s final at Melbourne Park before winning the French Open to become China’s first Grand Slam singles champion. Sixteenth-seeded Peng Shuai, China’s No. 2-ranked player, also won in straight sets.

Women’s seeds advancing on day one also included No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Francesca Schiavone, the 10th seed from Italy, and No. 13 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia. Flavia Pennetta, the No. 19 seed from Italy, was knocked out by Russian qualifier Nina Bratchikova.

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