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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Nadal eye is still on the ball

Spaniard keeps his focus at SW19 but Aussies fall at first-round hurdle

RAFAEL NADAL was faced with a common line of questioning after his first-round win over Thomaz Bellucci yesterday - his long-standing rivalry with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Despite losing his first four games, the second seed beat big-hitting Bellucci in three sets on Centre Court and joined his old foes in the second round.

As is often the case for the 26-year-old Spaniard, though, his post-match press conference featured a number of questions about Djokovic and Federer, the two men with whom he is constantly battling for supremacy at the top of the rankings.

That pair were scheduled to return to Centre Court action today, with Federer set to take on Fabio Fognini and Djokovic facing Ryan Harrison.

"It is a difficult one for me to answer," Nadal said, when asked why the three of them are so dominant.

"Somebody asked me this question a few weeks ago at Roland Garros. My answer was, what has happened over the last couple of years is because we are very focused, playing great. That's why."

It would be wrong not to mention Andy Murray's name alongside that trio, with the Scot, comfortably fourth in the world, also through after an impressive win over Nikolay Davydenko that saw him drop just six games.

Murray was a 6-1 6-1 6-4 victor and will now face the big-serving Ivo Karlovic.

"There might be games when I don't touch the ball and I will need to keep focus," Murray said.

Murray went into the match with questions about his form hanging over his head and having had to defend himself against accusations that he exaggerated his recent back injury.

Davydenko stoked the flames with his own comments about Murray's on-court demeanour, adding the Scot was not good enough to win one of the sport's four major titles.

Asked afterwards if he still believed Murray would not be able to win a slam, Davydenko replied simply: "Yes."

The Russian was also grudging in his appreciation of Murray's performance, saying: "I didn't play against him for a long time so I don't know if it was his best."

While three champions are through in the shape of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, one bowed out yesterday, with Lleyton Hewitt losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.



Conceding

The 2002 winner is now 31 and struggling for form and fitness and conceded afterwards that he does not know if he will return for another summer on the grass.

"I've been focusing on getting back and doing everything right with my foot," he said.

"I'd like to be back, absolutely, but we'll have to wait and see."

It was a bad day all-round for the Australians inside the venue as Bernard Tomic, the teenager tipped to follow in Hewitt's footsteps, also went out, losing in four sets to David Goffin 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4. For the first time since 1938, there will be no Australian man in the second round.

Aussie Matthew Ebden also lost yesterday. Ebden was beaten by Benoit Paire. Another Australian, Marinko Matosevic, lost to Xavier Malisse on Monday.

"The boys didn't have the best day," Hewitt said.

American Mardy Fish, back on Tour after a heart scare, saw off Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo in straight sets but did not attend his post-match press conference after feeling unwell, while Juan Martin del Potro saw off Robin Haase.

Not all first round matches were completed yesterday, with Andy Roddick set to return to action today a set up on Jamie Baker, while the likes of David Ferrer, Jurgen Melzer and Milos Raonic are closing in on victory.

Other notable ties today pit Ryan Sweeting against Janko Tipsarevic on Court Two and Fernando Verdasco against Grega Zemlja on 12.

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