Tennis

Rafael Nadal not focused on Roger Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles

World No. 1, who has 19 Majors, kicks off Aussie Open campaign with win

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal insisted yesterday that matching or beating Roger Federer's record 20 Grand Slam titles is not important and he was "super happy" with his tennis career regardless.

The Spaniard launched his campaign to equal the Swiss great's mark by dropping just five games in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 annihilation of Hugo Dellien in the Australian Open first round.

Nadal, the first man to be world No. 1 in three different decades, can not only match his great rival's achievement, but also become the first man in the Open era to win all four Majors at least twice if he lifts the trophy again at Melbourne Park.

It is a big ask for the 33-year-old Mallorcan, who has won the title only once before in Australia, against a tearful Federer in 2009, with four runner-up finishes to his name.

"I don't care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about trying to keep going, keep enjoying my career," he said.

"I am super happy about all the things that I did in my career, because I give it all most of the time. That's the only thing that matters."

Nadal, in a pink sleeveless shirt and matching shoes, was in total charge against the world No. 73 Dellien, storming to a 5-0 lead in the opening set before the Bolivian held serve then, against the odds, broke, before the Spaniard served out the set.

Dellien was broken in the sixth game of the second set, but hit back again to break Nadal for the second time in the match before the top seed again rallied to restore control with some sizzling forehands down the line.

Nadal raced 3-0 up in the third set as his physicality and power shone through.

Also powering through was fifth seed Dominic Thiem, who defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.

The 26-year-old Austrian, who reached the final at Roland Garros last year before his early exits at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows, said his eighth successive win over the Frenchman was a "step in the right direction".

"Each win is nice, because every single player in the main draw is amazing, is a player with a very high level," Thiem said.

"As we saw in the last two Slams, every victory is hard work. So I'm happy that I got this one and I hope that I can keep up the good level."

In the women's draw, two-time Major winner champion Simona Halep survived a couple of tumbles and a sore wrist before surging into the second round.

The Romanian fourth seed recovered from a poor start to beat the American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 and launch her title bid.

The 28-year-old Halep was broken in the very first game of the match and later took a nasty tumble during a punishing rally at 5-5 in the first set.

After a medical time-out, Halep began playing more aggressively, eventually edging out Brady in a tense tie-break to take the opening set.

A break early in the second set put Halep back in command and she clinched the match after 1 hour and 36 minutes.

British No. 1 Johanna Konta lost 6-4, 6-2 to Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in just over an hour in only her second match since last year's US Open.

The 12th seed was clearly not yet match fit on her return from a knee injury that cut short her 2019 season, as Konta sprayed 19 unforced errors and struggled to hold her serve throughout the contest.

Also on her way out was five-time Major winner Maria Sharapova, following her 3-6, 4-6 defeat by Croatia's 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.

It was the 32-year-old Sharapova's third first-round exit in a row at Grand Slam tournaments. - AFP, REUTERS


AUSTRALIAN OPEN FIRST-ROUND RESULTS (Selected)

Men's singles:

  • Daniil Medvedev (x4) bt Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
  • Nick Kyrgios (x23) bt Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1)
  • l Stan Wawrinka (x15) bt Damir Dzumhur 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4
  • Roberto Bautista Agut (x9) bt Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-2, 7-5
  • Alexander Zverev (x7) bt Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3

Women's singles:

  • Karolina Pliskova (x2) bt Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 7-5
  • Belinda Bencic (x6) bt Anna Schmiedlova 6-3, 7-5
  • Elina Svitolina (x5) bt Katie Boulter 6-4, 7-5
  • Madison Keys (x10) bt Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1
  • Garbine Muguruza bt Shelby Rogers 0-6, 6-1, 6-0
Tennis