MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal didn’t give the impression he was lacking any confidence as he raced through the first round of the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win Monday over Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny.
Coming back from a right wrist injury and an appendix operation that sidelined him late last season, and coming off a rare first-round loss in a tune-up event in Doha, the 14-time major winner said he had concerns about his fitness and form coming into the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
He didn’t show it, hitting 37 winners, breaking Youzhny twice in each set, holding his own serve comfortably and fending off the only break-point chance he faced.
“Last year, second half of the year had been tough mentally, tough physically for me,” he said, adding that the loss to Michael Berrer in Doha earlier in the month didn’t help. “When that happens after a tough period of injuries you arrive here with doubts.
“This first match was tough mentally for me — hope this match will give me confidence for play well next round.”
Nadal hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2009, but has reached the final in his last two trips to Melbourne Park, losing to Novak Djokovic in a 5-hour, 53-minute epic in 2012 and to Stan Wawrinka last year.
Sixth-seeded Andy Murray, who has lost three Australian Open finals, began his quest for an elusive Australian title with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri.
No. 7-seeded Tomas Berdych beat Alejandro Falla 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3, No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov beat Dustin Brown 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, No. 14 Kevin Anderson had a 7-6 (5), 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win over Diego Schwartzman, and No. 20 David Goffin ousted 36-year-old Michael Russell, the oldest player in the men’s draw, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-0.
Richard Gasquet (24), Jeremy Chardy (29) and Martin Klizan (32) also advanced.
No. 3 Simone Halep moved into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Karin Knapp of Italy, while four of the seeded players in the women’s draw went out quickly.
No. 5 Ana Ivanovic struggled with her serve and lost 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka in the first big upset of the tournament.
Former No. 1-ranked Ivanovic, who had a tour-leading 58 match wins in 2014 and started this season by reaching the final at the Brisbane International, had 10 double-faults and made 30 unforced errors and slumped to her earliest exit in a major since 2011.
“The whole match I didn’t really feel like myself out there,” Ivanovic said. “It’s probably the worst thing could happen. But still, the year is young and I really have to now sit and work on few things and just maybe try to have a different approach to this kind of event and try to see what was lacking.”
Caroline Garcia beat No. 27 and two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-2, Kristina Mladenovic defeated No. 28 Sabine Lisicki 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 and Julia Goerges routed No. 32 Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1.