The main attraction on Day two of the Australian Open was how Rafa Nadal would cope on his return to Melbourne following his lengthy lay-off with a wrist injury, and Novak DjokovicÈs second clash with Fernando Verdasco, the Spaniard who failed to convert five match points in their match in Doha.
Just happy to see the court like this and the people supporting me
First up was Nadal, the world No9 who won the Aussie Open in 2009 and who was ousted by his compatriot Verdasco in the opening round at Melbourne last year, reached the second round after two hours with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over GermanyÈs Florian Mayer.
However, he was quick to point out that opening rounds are never easy though he was happy at the way he played the key points in the match.
"I didn’t play against an easy opponent, the way he plays is not a conventional game," he said. "He changed the rhythm of the point, changing with a slice, then he hit a winner, then he play a little bit slower ball – it’s not easy to read his game."
He added: So (I) just am happy the way I played. I think I played solid match, no? It was great to be back on the big stadium. I feel the support of the people, love the people. That is something that is very special for me. Just happy to see the court like this and the people supporting me. So just can say thanks.
I am happy the way I am playing. I had good weeks of practice. Never easy the first round. Is always little bit more nerves at the beginning.
Djokovic was also pleased to get through what was expected to be a tough opener for the World No2. He came out with an aggressive game from the opening moments and while Verdasco recovered somewhat to contest the second set, he was dispatched 6-1 7-6(4 6-2.
"I think from one perspective it was good that I got to have the very tough first-round match, because it made me prepare better and kind of approach this match and the tournament with the right intensity right from the blocks, right from the first point," the six-time Aussie champion said.
"He’s a quality player, a former top 10. He beat Nadal in first round last year here. He’s a big match, big-time player."
He revealed that the match in Doha was in his mind, adding: It was about 10 days ago, the match that we played. So, of course, you still have traces of, I guess, that match, emotions and everything that has happened.
I use it in a way to just analyze and to get myself prepared for whatÈs coming up, to just be able to do things better than IÈve done that day in Doha. Even though I won the match, I thought I hadnÈt played as well as I did tonight.
Both matches were in some way, overshadowed by Ivo KarlovicÈs victory over the Argentine World No68, Horacio Zeballos which lasted five hours and 15-minutes!
The Croation delivered a record 75 aces which culminated in a 157-minute fifth set to score a remarkable 6-7(5) 3-6 7-5 6-2 22-20 victory in what is now the longest match in games in the tie-break era at the Aussie Open.
"It was real difficult match," the world No. 21 said while admitting he was hoping to better the 11hour and 5-mintes of the John Isner and Nicolas Mahut marathon at Wimbledon in 2010.
"It was also difficult mentally because I was down 2-0, I had to also fight against him and against my own head. So it was definitely really difficult."
Meanwhile in the womenÈs draw, Serena Williams cruised past Belinda Bencic 6-4 6-3.
I think it was pretty good, Williams said after the match. I mean, sheÈs a really good player. So I think I was able to start out well.
I feel like sheÈs definitely been having a lot more power. Obviously, she beat me in Canada the last time we played, but I really donÈt remember much about that match. I do remember I just felt like she was doing really well.
Bencic was not disappointed. "I knew that I played good, but obviously, it’s not enough against Serena," the Swiss star said. "It’s not enough to play just, like, not bad, so you really have to bring the best."
The 22-time major champion is now 65-1 in the first rounds of majors and will face Lucie Safarova in round two, Safarova having saved nine match points in her 3-6 7-6(7) 6-1 win over BelgiumÈs Yanina Wickmayer .
"Yes, I heard it was nine," Safarova said later. "But I was like, I’m just going to go for it and if she closes the match, well okay, but I’m just going to play my game. It’s exciting."
Also through are Karolina Pliskova, Agnieska Radwanska, Dominka Cibulkova and Caroline Wozniacki.