World number two Rafael Nadal blazed into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 demolition of Australian wildcard James Duckworth while big-serving fifth seed Kevin Anderson began his campaign with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over Adrian Mannarino.
The Spanish 17-time Grand Slam champion appeared back to full fitness after an injury-plagued 2018 as he raced through in 2hr 15min. He will next play Matthew Ebden of Australia.
In the night session, Roger Federer warmed up for a run at a record seventh Australian Open title Monday by breezing past Uzbek Denis Istomin in straight sets to book a spot in the second round. The 37-year-old Swiss master made light of his assignment on Rod Laver Arena to wrap up the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 as he confidently began the defence of his title.
Meanwhile, gutsy Andy Murray fought to the end before losing an epic Australian Open farewell match 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (4/7), 6-2 to Roberto Bautista Agut.
Murray, who said he will retire this season because of chronic hip pain, seemed down and out at two sets and a break down to the 22nd seeded Spaniard but somehow fought back to force a fifth set at Melbourne Arena.
Bautista Agut will face unseeded Australian John Millman in the second round after the 4hr 9min epic against Murray.
But the first day also the saw the first big upset in the men’s draw as American number one and ninth seed John Isner was knocked out by fellow American giant Reilly Opelka.
The 6ft 10in (2.08m) Isner was beaten by 6ft 11in (2.11m) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5) .
No fewer than 87 aces were powered down between the big-serving pair with just one break apiece being registered in the fourth set of a match that lasted 2hr 58min.
Isner, 33, had not lost a Grand Slam match to a player ranked as low as number 97 Opelka, who is 12 years his junior, since retiring due to a foot injury while trailing 106th-ranked Martin Klizan in the first round at Melbourne in 2014.
Opelka has never before reached the second round of a Slam and will next face Italy’s world number 102 Thomas Fabbiano, who beat Australian wildcard Jason Kubler 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 2-6, 6-3.
British hope Kyle Edmund, who reached the semi-finals a year ago, was sent packing by veteran Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.
The 13th seed had no answer to the Czech former world number four who is on the comeback trail having missed the last six months of the 2018 season with a back injury.
Berdych, who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne in 2014 and 2015, admitted he had contemplated retirement last year before returning to the circuit in Doha earlier this month.
But the 33-year-old instead showed glimpses of his old self as he overpowered the British number one, who will drop outside the world’s top 20 as a result of the defeat
Meanwhile, 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov survived a scare against veteran Janko Tipsarevic, coming from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek man to win a match at the Australian Open after battling back from a set down to beat Italy’s Mario Berrettini in four tough sets.
The 20-year-old world number 15 made his Australian Open debut last year, falling to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the first round.
He went on to win his first tour title at Stockholm and was tipped by Novak Djokovic to be a future force after making the last 16 at Wimbledon and winning the NextGen ATP finals in Milan.
The South African Anderson, a runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, had failed to reach the second round at Melbourne Park since 2015, but made no mistake this time round.
He lost a five-setter to Britain’s Kyle Edmund in round one a year ago and had to overcome a second-set blip Monday, dropping his serve twice from a break up against the French world number 41, before prevailing in two hours 53 minutes on Melbourne Arena.
“It was really hot out here. I thought we were going to hit the heat rule, but no luck,” said Anderson, who faces American Frances Tiafoe, who beat Indian qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran next.
“I was up a break in that second set and just let it get away a little bit,” he added. “I was happy with the way I was able to reset.”
In-form Anderson warmed up for the Australian Open by winning his sixth ATP title at Pune earlier this month, defeating Ivo Karlovic in the final.
“Every day I push myself to get better and better,” said the man who lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2017 US Open final.
“You’ve got to come out here and win the match. It is a difficult challenge but that is what it is all about.”
Mackenzie McDonald (USA) bt Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
Radu Albot (MDA) bt Michael Mmoh (USA) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Fernando Verdasco (ESP x26) bt Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-3
John Millman (AUS) bt Federico Del Bonis (ARG) 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) bt Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4
Karen Khachanov (RUS x10) bt Peter Gojowczyk (GER) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x14) bt Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4)
Viktor Troicki (SRB) bt Roberto Carballes (ESP) 6-1, 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4
Stefano Travaglia (ITA) bt Guido Andreozzi (ARG) 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x19) bt Christopher Eubanks (USA) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3
Gael Monfils (FRA x30) bt Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-0, 6-4, 6-0
Taylor Fritz (USA) bt Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 6-2
Daniel Evans (GBR) bt Tatsuma Ito (JPN) 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (10/8)
Kevin Anderson (RSA x5) bt Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, 6-3
Jordan Thompson (AUS) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-1, 7-6 (7/0), 6-3
Andreas Seppi (ITA) bt Steve Johnson (USA x31) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x20) bt Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4
Pablo Cuevas (URU) bt Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4, 7-5, 6-1
Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) bt Jason Kubler (AUS) 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 2-6, 6-3
Reilly Opelka (USA) bt John Isner (USA x9) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5)
Tomas Berdych (CZE) bt Kyle Edmund (GBR x13) 6-3, 6-0, 7-5
Robin Haase (NED) bt Guillermo Garc1a-Lopez (ESP) 7-5, 6-4, 7-5
Denis Kudla (USA) bt Marc Polmans (AUS) 5-7, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Diego Schwartzman (ARG x18) bt Rudolf Molleker (GER) 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0
Alex De Minaur (AUS x27) bt Pedro Sousa (POR) 6-4, 7-5, 6-4
Henri Laaksonen (SUI) bt Mirza Basic (BIH) 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-3
Matthew Ebden (AUS) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt James Duckworth
With inputs from AFP