New-look Nadal covers up muscles at Australian Open in Melbourne

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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MELBOURNE, Australia Rafael Nadal ditched his trademark sleeveless top in favour of a more conservative T-shirt.

His bulging biceps may no longer be exposed to view, but theyre certainly still driving the top-ranked players muscular approach to the game.

The 22-year-old Spaniard bullied Christophe Rochus around Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night with some brutal forehands and 10 aces in a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 first-round win at the Australian Open.

He hit 47 winners in 22 games and Rochus, a Belgian who turned 30 last month, could get nowhere near most of them.

Having the last match of the opening round had its advantages for Nadal. Hed already had a chance to see how Switzerlands Roger Federer, defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia and fourth-ranked Andy Murray of Scotland had progressed.

He would get another look at Federer and Djokovic in the second round Wednesday. Match two in Federers quest to tie Pete Samprass record 14th Grand Slam title is against Russian Evgeny Korolev.

Nadal deflected a question about his intentions with such an aggressive start. He was less interested in upping the ante on his highly ranked rivals, he said, than in gauging himself after a 1 1/2-month layoff for tendinitis in his right knee.

I am no thinking nothing about this, he said. I just think about try to play well myself. Roger and Novak and Murray, they are far (away) in the draw.

I just can play with them in semifinals or finals, no? I have to think (only) about next match right now.

His next match is against 26-year-old Croatian Roko Karanusic, who was ranked 92nd and has never gone past the second round at a major.

It was a rough day for Canadians, who all exited singles play. Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., built a two-set lead before falling 5-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to No. 18 Igor Andreev of Russia. Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., was ousted 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 by ninth-seeded American James Blake, who reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park last year to match his best effort at a Grand Slam.

On the womens side, No. 30 Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., lost to Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-4, 6-3.

Serena Williams opened her campaign for a 10th major and to continue her odd-year pattern of Australian titles that stretches back to 2003 with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 123rd-ranked Yuan Meng.

The temperature topped 40 C during the match, prompting Williams to finish points quickly, spend time in the shade and conserve fuel.

I was able to just take my time and play a lot slower, not giving 1,000 per cent, she said. I think it was pretty important for me not to ... go crazy out there.

The temperature had dropped to 26 C for Venus Williams 6-3, 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Olympic gold medallist Elena Dementieva beat Germanys Kristina Barrois to extend her winning streak to 11 matches. No. 13 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo of France also made it through.

Murray needed only 12 games and 45 minutes to reach the second round, advancing when Andrei Pavel retired while trailing 6-2, 3-1 due to a back problem.

Since his career-best run to the final at the U.S. Open, hes grown in confidence and is now talking openly about going one better.

He lost to Federer at the U.S. Open, but has beaten the Swiss star three times since then. Hes also had two wins over Nadal and one over third-ranked Djokovic.

The 21-year-old Scotsman is not the only one encouraged by the run: British bookmakers are listing him as co-favourite to win the Australian Open.

Organizations: Australian Open, U.S. Open

Geographic location: Melbourne, Serbia, Scotland Thornhill Russia Niagara Falls Melbourne Park Blainville Germany Belarus France

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