RAFAEL Nadal won his first match on a hard court for a year as he defeated American Ryan Harrison in his opener at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden yesterday morning.
The Spanish fifth seed cruised to a straight sets win as he continued his return from a knee injury. Nadal took the opening set 7-6 (7/3) and then wrapped up victory by taking the next 6-2 to make it into the third round.
A two-time champion at Indian Wells, Nadal has not won a hard-court title since 2010 but since coming back from his knee problem has won twice on clay, most recently in Acapulco.
“It was a good victory for me against a good opponent,” said Nadal, who clinched the Indian Wells title in 2007 and 2009. “I am satisfied to be in the next round. That’s the most important thing. Two weeks ago, I didn’t really know if I would be here playing. I am happy to be here. I am happy to be in the third round.”
Asked how he felt after the match, Nadal replied: “I am fine. My physical performance needs to improve. My movements need to improve. Matches like this help for me sure, no?
“Today, more than any result, any victory is important because that gives me the chance to play another day. I need to compete. That’s the only way to play well in a short period of time.”
While Nadal did not attempt to slide in his customary manner as he moved from side to side in some of the longer baseline rallies, he did not appear to be in any discomfort on the surface expected to trouble him most following his knee injury.
“After seven months, I’m not going to take crazy risks,” said the 26-year-old, who won his 11th grand slam title at the French Open last June.
“For my first tournament on [a] hard [surface] and with the conditions, I don’t expect a big result but just to be here, to practise with the other players, compete like I did tonight and have another chance tomorrow.”
World number two Roger Federer opened his title defence with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. Bidding for his fifth title at Indian Wells, Federer needed just 58 minutes to beat Istomin for the fourth time in as many meetings.
Federer broke Istomin’s serve four times and won 32 of 36 of his service points. In the third round Federer will face Croat Ivan Dodig after he beat Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-2.
Fourth seed David Ferrer suffered a surprise early exit at the hands of Kevin Anderson. The world number four from Spain won the first set but the unseeded South African responded superbly to win the second-round encounter 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Anderson will face Jarkko Nieminen in round three after the Finn beat another more-fancied Spaniard, trouncing 29th seed Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-0.
France’s Gilles Simon recovered from 5-1 down in the third set to defeat Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in two hours and 25 minutes.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 21st seed from Germany, also departed at the second-round stage, France’s Benoit Paire cruising to a 6-4, 6-2 victory, but 18th-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka hit back after losing the first set to defeat American Wayne Odesnik 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Lleyton Hewitt, Jerzy Janowicz, David Goffin, Leonardo Mayer, Andreas Seppi, Richard Gasquet and Ernests Gulbis also progressed to the next round.
In the women’s event, world number one Victoria Azarenka won her title defence opener when she defeated two-time former winner Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-1.
Azarenka, who had lost two of her previous three meetings with the Slovakian, recovered from 4-1 down to take the opening set. The top seed then broke Hantuchova six times to win in one hour and 32 minutes.
There was smooth progress for former US Open champion Samantha Stosur, the seventh-seeded Australian overcoming American Madison Keys 6-3, 6-4.
American Jamie Hampton saw off Su-Wei Hsieh, the 20th seed from Taipei, 6-3, 6-3, and there were also second-round wins for 30th seed Yanina Wickmayer and 32nd seed Peng Shuai. Belgian Wickmayer battled to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, while Peng toppled Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru 6-0 4-6 6-3.
Also through to the next round are Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Nadia Petrova, Ana Ivanovic, Magdalena Rybarikova, Garbine Muguruza, Julia Gorges, Mona Barthel, Kirsten Flipkens and Elena Vesnina.