Australian Open: Sela advances for third straight year

Top-ranked Nadal sails through opener while Williams sisters, Murray have little trouble.

dudi sela australian open 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
dudi sela australian open 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
Dudi Sela moved on to the second round of the Australian Open for a third straight year on Tuesday, defeating world number 31 Rainer Schuettler 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in Melbourne. The 23-year-old Israeli, ranked No. 106 in the world, dropped the first set in just 29 minutes, but fought back and broke the German seven times throughout the match to clinch the win in two hours and 43 minutes. "This was a tough match," said Sela, who has yet to progress past the second round in Melbourne. "There was a terrible wind, but after the first set I knew how to use it to my advantage. I played very well in the important points and I'm ready for my next match." Sela, who came through three qualifying rounds to claim a main draw berth, next faces Romanian Victor Hanescu (44 in the world), who came back from two sets down on Tuesday to beat Jan Hernych 3-6, 3-6 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4), 8-6. Sela and Hanescu met twice last year, with the Israeli winning in the Moscow tournament and the Romanian emerging victorious in the first round of the French Open. Also for Israel, Andy Ram begins his defense of the Australian Open doubles title on Wednesday without the injured Yoni Erlich, with whom he won the event last year. Ram and interim partner Max Mirnyi, who are seeded ninth in the event, face Australians Greg Jones and Peter Luczak. Meanwhile, top-ranked Rafael Nadal put together a dominating performance Tuesday, routing Belgium's Christophe Rochus 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. Showing no sign of the knee problems that sidelined him at the end of last year, Nadal yielded only eight points in six games in the first set. When Rochus finally got on the board while already down a break in the second, the capacity crowd in Rod Laver Arena gave him a huge ovation. Nadal said he just wanted to get off to a good start in the year's first major and wasn't trying to send a message to the rest of the field. "I played well, especially the serve and the forehand," Nadal said in an understatement. Nadal, who reached the semifinals here last year and is seeking his sixth Grand Slam title, finished with 47 winners to just seven for Rochus and also blasted 10 aces. The 75th-ranked Belgian, who fell to 13-31 in Grand Slam play, managed to laugh several times, realizing there was little he could do. Rochus suggested afterward that he might need to consider a change in professions. Nadal said it's too dangerous to show any mercy. "Sport is like this," he said. "If I had some mistakes ... anything can happen." In women's action, Serena Williams had to deal with a slight head cold, but she had no problem in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 123rd-ranked Yuan Meng of China to begin pursuit of her 10th Grand Slam. Yuan was all but ducking for cover from an onslaught of powerful serves, groundstrokes and volleys from the second-seeded American. And get this: Williams wasn't even going all out. "It was a little hot for me today," said Williams, aiming to keep intact her record of winning here in odd-numbered years since 2003. "But I was able to just take my time and play a lot slower, not giving 1,000 percent. "I think it was pretty important for me not to ... go crazy out there, try and conserve some energy. Keep in mind, I am playing doubles here, as well. I definitely want to do well in both events." That would be doubles with sister Venus - the reigning Wimbledon champion - who overcame a lapse against hard-hitting Angelique Kerber of Germany to advance with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. While the Williams sisters were happy to get through without drama, Britain's Andy Murray wished he had spent more time in the sun. The 21-year-old Scot got a mixed blessing when Andrei Pavel, who was hoping to make a farewell tour of the majors before retiring, had to quit after 45 minutes when his bad back acted up. "I would have liked to have been on court a bit longer," said the fourth-seeded Murray, who won for the first time on center court here. "You don't want to win a match like that." Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva beat Germany's Kristina Barrois to extend her winning streak this year to 11 matches. Also advancing were No. 13 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo of France and No. 22 Zheng Jie of China. No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland became the highest seeded player to be ousted, falling to Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko. On the men's side, No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Argentina's Juan Monaco, No. 6 Gilles Simon downed Spain's Pablo Andujar and fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, seeded 24th, ousted Diego Junqueira. Ninth-seeded James Blake, who reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park last year to match his best effort at a Grand Slam, had more than twice as many winners as unforced errors while beating Canada's Frank Dancevic. No. 13 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, runner-up here to Federer in 2007, ended local hope Lleyton Hewitt's 13th Australian Open. Hewitt, a former US Open and Wimbledon champion, lost the final at his home major in 2005 to Marat Safin.