Australian Open 2017: Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Milos Raonic power into 2nd round

Melbourne: Rafael Nadal powered into the second round of the Australian Open with a commanding straight-sets win over Germany's Florian Mayer on Tuesday.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion looked back to his healthy best after an injury-riddled 2016 as he beat the 49th-ranked Mayer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena.

He will next play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.

Last year Nadal was dumped out of the Open in the first round by compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a five-set boilover but there was no likelihood of a repeat ambush by Mayer.

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Florian Mayer in their first round match at the Australian Open. AP

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Florian Mayer in their first round match at the Australian Open. AP

"He doesn't have the typical game so he's going to the net. He changes a lot with different points," Nadal said of his German opponent.

"You need to be careful doing every single shot that he is hitting, so for me it is a great victory and I'm very happy to keep having chances to play here in Melbourne.

"Today was a good first round for me. Florian is a tough first player to play against."

Nadal is bidding to win his second Australian Open after beating Roger Federer for the 2009 crown.

But a left wrist injury plagued the Spanish left-hander after the French Open last year and he missed Wimbledon.

"I was healthy enough to practise the way I wanted to practise, so that's important for me and I was able to work a lot of things in Majorca and happy to be back," Nadal said.

"I've had a longer period of time here in Australia, it was great experience and I was able to play in Brisbane."

Nadal took the opening set on his fifth set point with an ace and fought off Mayer to grab the second set.

His trademark never-say-die retrieving behind the baseline was a feature as he fought for every point.

Nadal broke Mayer's service in the ninth game of the final set with a forehand winner and served out for a straight sets victory.

Serena opens with a win

Serena Williams is choosing her moments carefully. Deep contemplation on her recent engagement, she says, can wait until after the Australian Open.

Equality? The time to make a statement is now.

After starting her quest for a record 23rd Grand Slam title with a 6-4, 6-3 first-round win over Belinda Bencic on Tuesday, Williams walked into her news conferencing wearing a black shirt with the word "Equality" printed across the front.

It was still before midnight Monday in the United States, near the end of the federal holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

"With today being Martin Luther King Day, it's important to spread the message of equality," Williams said. "Something he talked about a lot and he tried to spread a lot, is equality and rights for everyone."

Asked if she was concerned about the future of equality in the U.S., Williams said the issue is "a concern for just everyone in general."

"We want to make sure we always continue to move forward and always have the opportunity to have equal rights for all."

Williams became engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian during the break, and he was in the crowd watching her play at Rod Laver Arena. She has been asked repeatedly about her wedding plans since arriving in Australia. She gave a clearer time frame for discussion on that.

"February I'll start looking at the bigger picture of my life," she said. "But right now I'm just so focused that this is kind of all I can think about."

For five games in the second set, Serena Williams played almost flawless tennis. Then came the rustiness that tends to follow a lengthy layoff, giving Belinda Bencic a glimmer of hope.

Williams, after three double faults — including one on match point — and "some errors on key points," held on to improve her record in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments to 65-1.

Third-seeded Milos Raonic, who reached the semifinals in Australia last year and the final at Wimbledon, opened with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Dustin Brown.

Also advancing were No 24 Alexander Zverev held off Robin Haase 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, No 25 Gilles Simon beat US wild-card entry Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 and No 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Two women who had breakout seasons in 2016, and opened this season with tournament titles, advanced in straight sets.

US Open finalist Pliskova following her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo. Johanna Konta, a surprise semifinalist in her debut at the Australian Open last year, won the Sydney International last week and opened at Melbourne Park with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens.

"I definitely love playing here. It's a dream," Konta said. "A lot has happened in the last year, but I'm just enjoying playing and getting better each day."

Lucie Safarova beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1 and will next play Williams.

Also progressing to the second round were No 14 Elena Vesnina, No 21 Caroline Garcia, No 28 Alize Cornet, No 30 Ekaterina Makarova and Naomi Osaka of Japan beat Thai wild-card entry Luksika Kumkhum 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-5.

Published Date: Jan 17, 2017 11:54 AM | Updated Date: Jan 17, 2017 11:54 AM

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