nadal swats Luczak

MELBOURNE - Rafael Nadal began his Australian Open title defence with a 7-6 6-1 6-4 victory over Peter Luczak, weathering a crowd-driven onslaught before powering away from the local hope yesterday.

MELBOURNE - Rafael Nadal began his Australian Open title defence with a 7-6 6-1 6-4 victory over Peter Luczak, weathering a crowd-driven onslaught before powering away from the local hope yesterday.

The six-time Grand Slam champion came back from a break down in the first set before wrapping up the tiebreaker to love and breezing through the last two sets in just over an hour.

Luczak, who initially threw caution to the wind and enjoyed thunderous support at Rod Laver Arena, was left to rue an attack of nerves when he double-faulted twice serving for the first set.

Scotland's Andy Murray was in imposing form as he breezed past South African qualifier Kevin Anderson 6-1 6-1 6-2.

Murray, fancied to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam singles title since 1936, could scarcely have been more impressive as he destroyed the world No 148 in just 97 minutes.

American seventh seed Andy Roddick motored past Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-1 6-4 6-4 to stay on track for a potential quarterfinal clash with US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro.

Roddick is now 6-0 for the new season after coming into the Australian Open as the winner of the lead-up Brisbane International.

"First rounds are always a little uncomfortable, especially at a Slam. You're kind of built up, you're maybe a little bit overanxious," he said. "But I thought overall it was all right."

Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic also progressed, with the 24th seed crushing 16-year-old Australian wild card Jason Kubler, while former finalist Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, seeded 11, stayed alive with victory over Olivier Rochus.

World No 1 Roger Federer opens his tournament today against Russia's Igor Andreev, with third seed Novak Djokovic and sixth seed Nicolay Davydenko posing the main threat to him in his top half of the draw. - Reuters and Sapa-AFP

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