Rafael Nadal dispelled any injury worries to storm into the Australian Open second round on Monday as Venus Williams led a slew of seeds out of the tournament in a dark day for American players, AFP reports.
Third seed Caroline Wozniacki cruised past “tricky” Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 6-3, while fourth seed Elina Svitolina stormed into the Australian Open second round with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Serbian Ivana Jorovic.
Nadal was hampered by a knee injury at the tail-end of the 2017 season, and he entered the opening Grand Slam of the year without playing a warm-up event.
But he wore no strapping and appeared to move freely in a ruthless 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 demolition of the Dominican Republic’s Victor Estrella Burgos in just 94 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
But there was no celebrating for fifth seed Williams, who was stunned 6-3, 7-5 by Swiss star Belinda Bencic, fresh from winning the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer.
Fellow American and US Open champion Sloane Stephens was also sent packing, along with big-hitter CoCo Vandeweghe, the 10th seed and a semi-finalist last year.
And the US misery was compounded on the men’s side with eighth seed Jack Sock toppled by Japan’s Yuichi Sugita and 16th-seed John Isner sent home by Australian Matthew Ebden.
Other seeded casualties included South Africa’s 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson, who was bundled out a in a five-set thriller by Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Third seed Grigor Dimitrov survived, as did volatile Australian Nick Kyrgios, who collected a code violation for swearing at the crowd.
Seven-time Grand Slam winner Williams, in her 77th major, struggled against a player who had never before beaten her to go down 6-3, 7-5 and deprive the tournament of one of its biggest names.
It is the first time since 1997 that there will be neither of the Williams sisters in the second round, with Serena not playing after giving birth to her first child.
“I don’t think I played a bad match. She just played above and beyond,” said the 37-year-old.
Bencic, 20, said featuring with Federer at the Hopman Cup had helped a lot, with the Swiss legend giving her advice and tips.
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