Spain's Rafael Nadal signs autographs for fans after his win against Russia's Mikhail Youzhny during the Australian Open. (EPA Photo/Joe Castro)
First Up Success for Nadal, Murray and Dimitrov at Open
JANUARY 19, 2015
Melbourne. Grand Slam titan Rafael Nadal eased some self-doubts and Andy Murray took the first steps in overcoming a minefield men's draw as the curtain went up on the Australian Open on Monday.
Nadal, a beaten finalist to Stan Wawrinka last year, turfed out Russian journeyman Mikhail Youzhny in an uncomplicated straight sets victory, while Murray began a campaign hoping to end the heartbreak of three runners-up finishes in Melbourne.
The two-time Grand Slam champion Scot emerged a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) winner over India's Yuki Bhambri on Margaret Court Arena.
Rising Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov also swept to victory over Germany's Dustin Brown in just 69 minutes, while Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych blew away Alejandro Falla.
Roger Federer, chasing a fifth Australian crown and his 18th major, was due to face Taipei's Lu Yen-Hsun later Monday.
There were no boilovers on the men's side of the draw, but Spain's 15th seed Tommy Robredo retired just five games into his match with Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Spanish world number three Nadal was delighted with his straight forward win over Youzhny, a former US Open semi-finalist, and will next play American qualifier Tim Smyczek.
"Very positive result for me. I think a very good start. Very important," Nadal said.
Youzhny was considered a testing first-up opponent as the Spaniard searches for matches to work his way into the men's draw.
But the third seed only conceded one break point on his serve, while claiming six service breaks on the Russian in a convincing win.
The 14-times Grand Slam winner has had only seven matches since Wimbledon last July due to ongoing back and wrist injuries and an appendectomy.
His lack of match fitness was apparent in Qatar this month when he was humiliated in the first round by German Michael Berrer, a qualifier ranked outside the top 100.
Fast Out of Blocks
Murray, who is bidding to become the first player to win the Australian Open after losing three finals in Melbourne, paid tribute to former junior world number one Bhambri, who is getting the finishing touches at the famed Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
While the 22-year-old Indian was the lowest-ranked player in the men's draw at 317, Murray was effusive about his future prospects.
Murray said that Bhambri was "way better than ranked 300 in the world."
"He missed five or six months last year through injury. I would imagine by the end of this year he would definitely be around a hundred in the world, if he stays injury-free," he said.
Murray, who has been working for the last seven months with two-time Grand Slam winner and coach Amelie Mauresmo, was pleased with the state of his game ahead of his next challenge against Australian Marinko Matosevic before a home crowd.
Dimitrov was fast out of the blocks and never had a break point against him as he powered to a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Brown in just 69 minutes.
The Bulgarian, 23, at the vanguard of the new breed of younger players, impressed with his all court coverage and groundstrokes and will next face Slovakia's Lukas Lacko.
A semi-finalist at Wimbledon and a quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, Dimitrov ruthlessly put away the 90th-ranked German-Jamaican.
Australian Bernard Tomic, South African 14th seed Kevin Anderson and French 24th seed Richard Gasquet were other winners.