Nadal fires warning with easy victory

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The Independent Online

Whether he intended it or not Rafael Nadal's crushing defeat of Belgian Christophe Rochus in the opening round of the Australian Open will have sent a message to his nearest rivals Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Nadal produced a ruthless display of baseline aggression mixed with the odd foray into the net as he dispatched Rochus 6-0 6-2 6-2 in the final match on day two at Melbourne Park.

The first set took just 19 minutes as Rochus was beaten into submission, and although he fought back to hold serve twice in each of the remaining sets - which prompted much cheering from the crowd at Rod Laver Arena - the Belgian simply had no answers to the world number one's impressive array of ground strokes, passing shots and the odd volley.

Asked if he had gone out to make a statement to his rivals following their opening victories, Nadal replied: "I'm not thinking about that, I'm just trying to make sure I play well myself.

"Roger and Novak are in the other half of the draw so I can only meet them in the semi-finals and final.

"I just have to worry about this half of the draw and my next match."

Nadal was only on court for 77 minutes and was unconcerned the match had finished so quickly.

"The good thing is the win. If it is (a short match), even better. So I'm happy for the good start and happy about my performance.

"I thought I played well, especially the serve and the forehand. I thought I played with good concentration the whole time and was able to move the ball around the court and I feel good."

While Nadal had a quick work-out of his own choosing, number four seed Andy Murray had mixed feelings about his 45 minutes in the main arena earlier in the day.

The number four seed was 6-2 3-1 up when his opponent Andrei Pavel retired with a back injury that has kept him out of tennis for the best part of a year and resulted in a rankings slide below 1000.

"I would have liked to have been on court a bit longer," Murray said.

"But, I guess if you want to do well in the tournament, it's good to conserve some energy, as well. Hopefully that was a good thing."

Fernando Gonzalez had anything but an easy passage into the second round, the 13th seed taking three hours, seven minutes to see off Australian battler Lleyton Hewitt, who has been out for five months recovering from hip surgery.

Gonzalez came from a set down to take the honours 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3. It was the first time Hewitt had failed to progress beyond the first round since 2002.

"I knew it was going to be tough against Lleyton," said Gonzalez, who has now beaten the Australian in four of their six encounters.

"He's a great player, a great competitor. This was the first grand slam match of the year. So I'm happy the way that I did it."

Last year's finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a much easier time, defeating Juan Monaco 6-4 6-4 6-0, while ninth seed James Blake also went through with a 6-4 6-3 7-5 win against Frank Dancevic.

Other seeds to progress on day two were number six Gilles Simon, who beat Spain's Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-1 6-1, and French compatriot Richard Gasquet, who needed four sets to get past Diego Junqueira 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 6-4.

Jurgen Melzer, of Austria, had a 7-5 6-2 6-1 win against Japan's Kei Nishikori and remains on course for a possible match-up with Murray in the third round.

Twelfth seed Gael Monfils, of France, had a straightforward 6-1 6-3 7-5 victory against Martin Vassallo Arquello and Nicolas Almagro of Spain, number 25 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 14th seed Fernando Verdasco and 18th seed Igor Andreev also made it safely through.

But Dimitry Tursunov, the 29th seed, and Rainer Schuettler, seeded 30th both bowed out.