BRISBANE – Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal enjoyed an ideal start to his first Brisbane International Tuesday, storming into the second round with a straight sets win over Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Nadal took only 74 minutes to see off Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-3 and book a second round clash with Germany’s Mischa Zverev, who earlier outclassed 17-year-old Australian qualifier Alex De Minaur 6-3, 6-3.
Dolgopolov had beaten Nadal on their previous two encounters and he started well, breaking the Spaniard’s second service game.
But Nadal broke straight back then broke again to take the first set in 39 minutes.
He broke once more in the second set to the delight of the packed house at Pat Rafter Arena.
“It’s tough to play against him,” Nadal said of Dolgopolov.
“He’s able to – he plays a little bit Kamikaze, you know.
“He’s very aggressive with all the shots. It’s difficult to construct a point with him.”
Nadal, who played the last match of the day and finished just before midnight, only arrived in Brisbane from Abu Dhabi Monday and said he was struggling to adapt to the time difference.
“Today, at two in the afternoon I was on the bed,” he said. “I was destroyed. I’m not sure if it’s better to play earlier or not. I think for the moment, I think it’s better for me to play later.
“I played great in Abu Dhabi (where he won an exhibition tournament),” he added.
“I like the conditions there, and a lot of years I played well there. That’s always important for me.
“And here is an important event for me, because it’s the second event of the year and the first ATP event. It’s great to start the new year with a victory in the ATP Tour.”
Earlier, fifth seed Lucas Pouille recovered from 0-5 in the first set to see off fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) and set up a second round clash against Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Australian wildcard Sam Groth won his first match in the ATP main draw since July when he beat France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.
US qualifier Jared Donaldson upset Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 6-4, 6-4, while Viktor Troicki of Serbia downed Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4, 7-5.
Argentine Diego Schwartzman upset Sam Querrey of the US 6-2, 6-4.
On the women’s side, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina, who all had career-highlight victories over Serena Williams last season, are already through to the quarterfinals.
A 16-year-old high school student, who was inspired to take up tennis when she was 5 after watching Williams on TV, also made a mark Tuesday with a first-round win.
Australian qualifier Destanee Aiava became the first player born in the 2000s to win a main draw match in an elite WTA event when she beat 31-year-old Bethanie Mattek-Sands 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a first-round match that spanned two days. She already has a wild-card entry to the Australian Open but, before then, will face two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round of the tuneup event for the season’s first Grand Slam.
The third-seeded Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the US Open semifinals last year before losing the championship match to Angelique Kerber, beat American qualifier Asia Muhammad 6-1, 6-4 to secure the first spot in the quarterfinals.
The sixth-seeded Svitolina, the only woman to beat both Williams and Kerber when in 2016, advanced with a 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 win over Shelby Rogers. She could meet the top-ranked Kerber in the quarterfinals.
In a three-hour night match, Muguruza wasted a match point and saved one before clinching a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7) win over Daria Kasatkina.