Nadal 'roars' back at open
RAFA and Williams' sisters breeze into round two
RAFA NADAL made an ominous return to the US Open yesterday, while the sister act of Serena and Venus Williams shared the spotlight as the last grand slam of the year got under way.
Roared on by the energetic Flushing Meadows crowds, the trio turned on a masterclass of power hitting at Arthur Ashe Stadium before New York's fickle weather brought proceedings to an early end.
A late rain shower forced tournament organisers to abandon the opening day's play before former world number one Roger Federer was about start his match against Slovenia's Grega Zemlja.
Nadal, who missed last year's US Open because of a chronic knee problem, demonstrated his intentions to make up for lost time as he demolished American wild card Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-2 6-2 during the day session.
Bouncing around the unforgiving hardcourt like a kangaroo, the Spaniard chalked up 28 winners despite the blustery conditions at the US National Tennis Center.
"For me, the chance to be back here playing is great," said Nadal. "The first match after two years in the Arthur Ashe is a great feeling."
Serena needed just one hour to remind everyone why she remains the overwhelming favourite to win the women's title as she demolished Italy's Francesca Schiavone 6-0 6-1.
The American showed no mercy against her opponent, who won the French Open in 2010 and was a finalist in Paris the following year, conceding just 23 points in the 60-minute romp.
"I knew playing a former grand slam champion in the first round was a really tough draw so I decided to be super serious," she said.
Not to be outdone, her older sister Venus rolled back the years with a head-turning appearance on the centre court – she dispatched Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-2.
Flipkens is enjoying the best season of her career.
The 27-year-old made the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July, her best result at any grand slam, and was seeded 12th for the US Open, but found Williams too hot.
Flipkens was the first notable casualty on a day where most of the top players safely made it through.
China's Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion and runner-up in Australia this year, crushed Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2 6-2.
And Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, the third seed, was even more ruthless, thumping Spain's Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1 6-2 in 63 minutes in the opening match on centre court.
There was an early upset in the men's draw when Japan's Kei Nishikori, Asia's highest-ranked man, was beaten 6-4 6-2 6-2 by English qualifier Dan Evans, ranked 179th.
Russia's Alisa Kleybanova made an emotional return to the grand slam circuit, more than two and a half years after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.
The now 24-year-old underwent chemotherapy through most of 2011 and after beating the disease she decided on a comeback.
Just as the first matches were starting, American James Blake announced he was retiring after the championships.