London. Two-time Wimbledon winner Rafael Nadal and British hope Andy Murray reached the Wimbledon second round on Tuesday, but Australia’s men slumped to their country’s worst performance since 1938.
Nadal, fresh from a record-breaking seventh French Open win, enjoyed a 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci despite having trailed 4-0 in the first set.
“It’s always tough to make the change from clay to grass, especially when over the last couple of months I played almost every match on tour. Physically you start having some troubles,” admitted Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion.
“I’m very happy to be back on probably the best court in the world and winning in three sets is good for me.”
Fourth seed Murray, a semi-finalist for the last three years, had the last laugh as he silenced Nikolay Davydenko’s taunts with an easy 6-1, 6-1 6-4 win.
The Russian had claimed players laughed at the Briton, believing he regularly exaggerates his injuries.
“I’m desperate to get the tournament going because there’s a lot of talk from a lot of people,” said Murray.
Serena Williams, the 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010 champion, reached the second round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
The American sixth seed triumphed on the same Court Two where sister Venus had on Monday suffered her first opening round loss at Wimbledon since 1997.
“It always has some sort of an effect,” said Serena of her sister’s loss. “I always want to play even better if she’s out of the tournament.”
Defending champion Petra Kvitova overcame early nerves to progress 6-4, 6-4 against Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan, but the 22-year-old Czech fourth seed did it the hard way, having trailed 3-0 and 4-1 in the first set.
World number two Victoria Azarenka eased through, seeing off America’s Irina Falconi 6-1, 6-4.
Lleyton Hewitt’s 10th anniversary party of his 2002 title was gatecrashed by French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win, handing the Australian his earliest exit at the All England Club since 2003.
His loss also meant that there will be no Australian man in the second round for the first time since 1938 after compatriots Bernard Tomic, a quarter-finalist last year and seeded 20, Matthew Ebdon and Marinko Matosevic were also beaten.
It is a depressing statistic for a country which has won 21 Wimbledon men’s titles.
The injury-plagued Hewitt, 31, whose ranking has plummeted to 202 after undergoing radical surgery to cut bone out of his big toe, refused to entertain any notion that the problems of Australian tennis mirrored a decline in the country’s sporting prowess in general.
“I reckon we’ll go all right at the Olympics,” he said.
American hopes, which were so badly bruised by the opening day exits of five-time champion Venus and big-serving John Isner, were earlier boosted by Mardy Fish and Bryan Baker.
Fish made a winning return to tennis in his first match following an operation to address a frightening heart scare.
The world number 12 beat Spain’s Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 7-6 (7/1), but later felt unwell and pulled out of a mandatory post-match press conference.
Baker, who lost six years of his career to an assortment of injuries and underwent five operations, clinched a first ever win at Wimbledon, beating Portugal’s Rui Machado 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-0.
Juan Martin Del Potro, the ninth seeded Argentine and 2009 US Open winner, also went through, beating Dutchman Robin Haase 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5.
Rain brought an early end to the second day with three-time runner-up Andy Roddick a set and a break up on Britain’s Jamie Baker.
Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer was two sets up against Germany’s Dustin Brown while Austria’s Jurgen Melzer was just a point away from beating Swiss 25th seed Stanislas Wawrinka.