Rafael Nadal races to 1st-round straight sets win in 2021 Australian Open

Oct 11, 2020; Paris, France; Rafael Nadal (ESP) in action during his match against Novak Djokovic (SRB) on day 15 at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Despite an ailing back, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal enjoyed a smooth first-round victory over Serbia’s Laslo Djere on Tuesday at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The Spanish star fended off four of five break points in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 victory in one hour, 51 minutes.

Nadal, 34, missed last week’s ATP Cup due to injury, but was focused against Djere.

“I’m happy to be through to the second round. I think I did a good job today,” he said. “Straight sets, that’s what I needed.”

Nadal, the 2009 champ in this tournament, is seeking his 21st Grand Slam title, which would break a tie for the record with Roger Federer.

Up next for Nadal is American qualifier Michael Mmoh, who advanced after a grueling 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over Serbia’s Viktor Troicki that last four hours, six minutes.

Mmoh trailed by at least two games in each of the sets he eventually won.

Also opening strongly was Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who won his 15th straight match — a streak that began in October — with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory against Vasek Pospisil of Canada.

Read More: Novak Djokovic has easy first-round win at Australian Open

The fourth-seeded Medvedev was coming off winning the ATP Cup on Sunday.

“(I) didn’t know how it would be physically, so I’m happy that I managed to finish it fast and feeling good,” said Medvedev.

Medvedev will face Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in the second round. Carballes Baena beat Hungary’s Attila Balazs 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance.

Other seeded players who were victorious on Tuesday included No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 7 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 9 Matteo Berrettini of Italy, No. 16 Fabio Fognini of Italy, No. 19 Karen Khachanov of Russia, No. 21 Alex de Minaur of Australia, No. 22 Borna Coric of Croatia, No. 24 Casper Ruud of Norway, No. 28 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia and No. 31 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Four seeded players fell on Tuesday, with No. 12 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 13 seed David Goffin of Belgium tops among them.

Moldova’s Radu Albot eliminated Bautista Agut 6-7 (1), 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (5), while Aussie wild card Alexei Popyrin outlasted Goffin 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, seeded 26th, and Great Britain’s Daniel Evans, seeded 30th, were the others to fall.

Read More: Serena Williams cruises in first round of Australian Open

–Field Level Media