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Healthy Nadal breezes through, Serena begins quest for 23rd Grand Slam

Day 2 of the Australian Open has seen no major upsets, with all of the usual suspects winning their first-round matches in scorching heat in Melbourne. Former champion Rafael Nadal moved on, as did Serena Williams.

Rafael Nadal, determined not to go out in the second round for a second year running blasted past Germany's Florian Mayer in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday. The former longtime world No. 1 looked to be back at his healthy best after an injury riddled 2016. The 9th-ranked Spaniard last won the Australian Open in 2009 and is the last left-hander on the men's side to do so.

"Today was a good first round, he was a tough player to play," Nadal said of Mayer. "He challenges the rhythm and you need to be careful on every shot."

Third seed Milos Raonic of Canada also had little trouble with a German opponent, hitting 18 aces and 46 winners as he needed just over an hour and a half to beat Dustin Brown  6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Austria's Dominic Thiem, the eighth seed, had a more difficult time of it as he needed four sets to defeat another German player, Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

Zverev and Kohlschreiber through

Not all of the news was bad for the German men on Day 2 though, as both the rising young star Alexander Zverev and Phillip Kohlschreiber won their first round matches.

Zverev had to get past a fourth-set meltdown to do so. After Dutch journeyman Robin Haase broke his serve, the 24th-ranked Zverev twice slammed his racquet on the court - and the chair umpire promptly handed him a code violation for his trouble.

"I think letting my frustration out in the beginning of the fourth helped me a little bit," the 19-year-old Zverev said.

"You know sometimes you just have to let go. And then getting that first break back in the fourth set, I really felt like I could still do it and that's how it went then."

Tennis Australien Open - Alexander Zverev, Deutschland (Reuters/E. Su)

Zverev (right) prevailed over Haase in the end

Zverev went on to beat Haase 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Kohlschreiber, the 32nd seed, needed four sets to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-4, 3-6,7-6,(2), 6-4.

Successful start to title defense

Six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic opened his title defense by beating Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2. After the Serbian No. 2 dominated the opening set, Verdasco saved two break points in the ninth game of the second set, eventually taking it to the tiebreaker. In the third set, Djokovic swept to a 3-0 lead and won in the match in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Record-setting match

Croatia's Ivo Karlovic and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina set a new Australian Open record for the most number of games in a single match in the tiebreak era with 84. After 5 hours and 15 minutes, the 37-year-old Karlovic prevailed over Zeballos 6-7 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20. Karlovic also fired an Australian Open record 75 aces.

Serena launches quest for 23rd Grand Slam

On the women's side, the No.2-ranked Serena Williams scored an emphatic 6-4, 6-3 victory over 19-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic. This was an almost perfect launch of the 35-year-old American's bid to wn a record 23rd Grand Slam title in the professional era.

Elswhere, the Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo of Span 6-2, 6-0, and Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia beat Czech opponent Denisa Allertova 7-5, 6-2.

pfd/rd (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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