Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Nadal sounds warning as he blows Rochus off court

AFP , MELBOURNE

Venus Williams of the US belts a forehand during her first-round match against Angelique Kerber of Germany at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal sent out an chilling warning to his rivals when he blew Belgium? Christophe Rochus off court 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the Australian Open yesterday.

The Spaniard was in devastating form, serving 10 aces and blasting 44 winners in a virtuoso display of power and precision as he kick-started his bid for a first Australian title.

Rochus was almost reduced to a spectator at times as Nadal? ground stokes either landed deep in the corner or hugged the sidelines.

When the Belgian tried something different and came forward to the net, Nadal? passing shots whistled by, leaving Rochus either stranded on the service line or lunging at thin air.

?es, well, I played well, especially the serve and the forehand,?Nadal said.

?? just trying to improve and to be humble because every match is different and every match is tough,?he said, adding that he was fully recovered from the knee injury that blighted the tail end of last year.?br />

?? very happy because I? over the injury and at one of the greatest tournaments in the world,?he said.

Nadal, a four-time French Open champion, said he had been working on his serve in the off-season and that had paid off, but he acknowledged he had not been put under any pressure.

Nadal broke Rochus three times in the first set and barely conceded a point off his own serve as he won the set 6-0 in only 19 minutes.

Rochus finally got on the scoreboard in the ninth game of the match, but with his first serves hovering just below 180kph and his second serves barely passing 130kph, every service game was a struggle.

The second set lasted just 10 minutes longer than the first but at least Rochus began to get into the match.

However, Nadal was never in danger and he broke Rochus another two times in the third to take the match in a lightning quick 77 minutes.

Nadal, who took over from Roger Federer as world No. 1 last year, said he felt little different coming to the year? first Grand Slam as the world? best player.

? feel the same ?I am just trying to play my best tennis,?he said. ?ll that? changed is a number.?br />

?ut in tennis your career continues ?you can? just stop [because you?e No. 1],?he said.

Also through is Murray, the fourth seed.

As temperatures exceeded 40慢 earlier in the day, the Scot barely broke a sweat against Romanian Davis Cup captain Andrei Pavel who retired with a back injury when Murray was leading 6-2, 3-1.

The 21-year-old is now undefeated in six matches this season as he goes in search of Britain? first Grand Slam title since 1936.

?t? unfortunate I had to stop but I felt like I was hitting the ball well,?he said. ? guess if you want to do well in the tournament, it? good to conserve some energy.?br />

Second-seeded Serena Williams was equally comfortable in her 6-3, 6-2 mauling of China? Meng Yuan, not needing the ice vests offered to players between games in such sizzling heat.

Matching her sister, sixth seed Venus hardly broke stride as she sauntered past Germany? Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3.

While they cruised, Russian fourth seed Elena Dementieva survived a grueling test before grinding down Germany? Kristina Barrois in three sets, while Polish ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska became the biggest casualty so far.

Australian hope Lleyton Hewitt joined Radwanska on the scrap heap after slumping in five sets to Chilean 13th seed Fernando Gonzalez.

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