Melbourne, Jan 18 (AP) Rafael Nadal''s quest to completehis "Rafa Slam" at the Australian Open started with afirst-round victory that lasted only 11 games and certainlyhelped him conserve plenty of energy.
The No 1-ranked Nadal went straight to the practicecourts and worked on his serve, later saying it needs work toimprove his chances of winning the Australian title.
The 24-year-old Spaniard led 6-0, 5-0 when Marcos Danielretired with a left knee injury today.
He sympathised with Daniel, recalling he''d had to retirefrom the last Australian Open with an injured knee in aquarterfinal loss to Andy Murray. But Nadal recovered quicklyand won the next three majors and is now aiming to be thefirst man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slamtrophies at the same time.
"It''s a terrible feeling, for sure. I wish him all thebest for a fast recovery," Nadal said after the match. "Lastyear was a really difficult time when I played thistournament. I came back here playing well ... but to go outlike that was hard mentally.
"Finally, I had a very good season in 2010."
Good season is the understatement of the tournament.
Nadal won the French Open, then Wimbledon and finally claimedhis first U S Open title. With today''s victory, he''s now on aroll of 22 consecutive match wins in Grand Slam tournaments.
"I came back after a difficult situation. Winning RolandGarros was very important, it allowed me to play the rest ofthe season with a little bit more calm."
Still, he''s not thinking about victory celebrations atMelbourne Park just yet.
"I never think about winning the four Grand Slams in arow because that''s very far right now," he said.
Daniel had a medical time out at the end of the first setand had his left knee heavily strapped. He said he''d injuredhis knee earlier in the week in practice, but thought it wouldget him through the match.
He said playing Nadal on center court made it moredifficult.
"That''s the hardest part. In the beginning I was feelingembarrassed a little bit," he said. "I tried to play the game,it didn''t work. It looks like I''m 75 years old." (MORE) AP CM
When the Brazilian had a break point in the second game of the second set, he raised both arms and received a rousingcheer from the crowd. When Nadal had a rare miss with a wildoverhead that sailed over the baseline to give the Brazilian asecond break-point chance, the crowd went while again.
Nadal finally held after the game went to deuce fivetimes and it progressively seemed only a matter of time beforeDaniel would retire as he limped around.
"Save energy or not, I think the way that the match camedoesn''t make big difference," Nadal said. "Is difficult ... tosay I played really well, I played bad. I think I playedright."
Australian wild-card entry Bernard Tomic advanced to thesecond round with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Jeremy Chardyof France. He is a potential third-round opponent for Nadal.
Hoping a third time will be luckier, Vera Zvonareva beganher bid to reach a third consecutive Grand Slam final with acommanding 6-2, 6-1 win over Sybille Bammer in the openingmatch today on Rod Laver Arena.
Zvonareva, who lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledonfinal and to Kim Clijsters in the U S Open final last year,dominated the first set against the 30-year-old Bammer andtightened her grip on the match in the second. She concededonly four points in the first four games of the second set anddidn''t allow the Austrian to hold until the sixth game.
"It''s tough to play your best tennis in the first match.
The most important thing is I''ve done what I needed to do andmoved through to the next one," Zvonareva said.
Also advancing were French Open finalist Sam Stosur, thefifth-seeded Australian beating American wild-card entryLauren Davis 6-1, 6-1; No 12 Agnieszka Radwanska, who took sixof the last seven games after a medical timeout in the thirdset to hold off Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm 6-4, 4-6,7-5; No. 7 Jelena Jankovic; No. 25 Petra Kvitova and China''sPeng Shuai.
On the men''s side, No 15 Marin Cilic of Croatia beatAmerican qualifier Donald Young 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to advance alongwith No 10 Mikhail Youzhny, No 11 Jurgan Melzer, No 31Feliciano Lopez and No 32 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Nadal''s easy run to the second round came the day afterhis chief rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic got theircampaigns started with straight-sets wins.
Defending champion Federer dismantled Lukas Lacko 6-1,6-1, 6-3 and Djokovic soundly beat Marcus Granollers 6-1, 6-3,6-1.
Eighth-seeded American Andy Roddick had a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2win over Jan Hajek, while his U S Davis Cup teammates had atougher time, with Mardy Fish coming back from two sets downto win in five for the first time in his career and SamQuerrey losing in a five-setter. (AP) CM