World No 1 Rafael Nadal blitzed past Hugo Dellien on Tuesday to launch his campaign to equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles, dropping just five games in the one-sided annihilation.
The sparkling Spaniard was in imperious form to sweep past a Bolivian making his Australian Open debut 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena in barely two hours.
The Mallorcan, the first man to be world No 1 in three different decades, is not only seeking to match great rival Federer’s Slam mark, but become the first man in the Open era to win all four Majors at least twice.
It is a big ask for the 33-year-old, who has only won the title once before at Melbourne Park, against a tearful Federer in 2009, with four runner-up finishes to his name.
“For me it is a positive start. What you want is a first round win and in three sets is even better,” said Nadal, who clubbed 38 winners and made only 21 unforced errors.
“This court always brings me lots of positive energy.”
Nadal next plays either Argentine Federico Delbonis or Portugal’s Joao Sousa.
Dominic Thiem opened his campaign with a 6-3 7-5 6-2 win over France’s Adrian Mannarino on Tuesday.
The fifth seed wobbled midway through the second set when he was broken and allowed Mannarino to level at 4-4, but the 26-year-old Austrian recovered quickly, proving strong in the longer rallies, including a 28-shot stunner, to break Mannarino’s serve towards the end of the set.
Thiem sealed victory with his seventh ace after two hours and 21 minutes to set up a meeting with either Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Australian wildcard Alex Bolt.