Rafael Nadal celebrates his routine win at the Australian Open. Picture: Getty Images
Rafael Nadal celebrates his routine win at the Australian Open. Picture: Getty Images

Australian Open wrap: Rafa on track for second title

RAFAEL Nadal's quest for an elusive second Australian Open crown is successfully under way after the world No.1 destruction of Bolivian Hugo Dellien on Rod Laver Arena.

Exploiting the South American's suspect backhand, Nadal powered to a 6-2 6-3 6-0 result in 122 minutes.

"It was a tough first five games," Nadal said.

"He's a fighter and I wish him all the best.

"It's been a positive start. What you want in the first round is a win and I'm happy and excited to be here."

The 2009 champion will join Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only male players to win every major at least twice if he claims a second Australian crown.

Rafael Nadal was a dominant force in the opening round clash. Picture: Getty Images
Rafael Nadal was a dominant force in the opening round clash. Picture: Getty Images

Nadal would also equal Roger Federer's haul of 20 majors if successful in Melbournee.

He clubbed 38 winners and made only 21 unforced errors against Dellien.

-Michael Randall

 

2018 FINALIST LOOMS AGAIN

Former finalist Marin Cilic remains the most dangerous floater in the Australian Open draw after winning his first-round clash in a canter.

Runner-up to Roger Federer two years ago, Cilic blitzed past Frenchman Corentin Moutet 6-3 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 46 minutes on Tuesday.

First-round winner Marin Cilic shows his delight. Picture: Getty Images
First-round winner Marin Cilic shows his delight. Picture: Getty Images

The giant Croatian smashed 34 winners, dropping just one service game on his way to a dominant victory.

Cilic is unseeded at Melbourne Park after slipping outside the top 30 and next plays temperamental Frenchman 21st seed  Benoit Paire. He outlasted Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-0.

The 2014 US Open champion is on a potential third-round collision course with Roberto Bautista Agut, who firmed as a tournament dark horse after securing a seventh straight victory.

Corentin Moutet was crushed by Cilic. Picture: Getty Images
Corentin Moutet was crushed by Cilic. Picture: Getty Images

Bautista Agut, unbeaten in six matches during Spain's run to the ATP Cup final, continued his winning ways, beating countryman Feliciano Lopez 6-2 6-2 7-5.

The ninth seed, a quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, had to wait overnight to claim victory as heavy rain suspended the clash at 1-2 in the second set.

Another compatriot may await him in the second round, with Bautista Agut to face either Spain's Pablo Andujar or American wildcard Michael Mmoh.

Canadian Milos Raonic also had little trouble closing out his rain-delayed encounter over lucky loser Lorenzo Giustino 6-2 6-1 6-3.

Raonic, who lost to Andy Murray in the 2016 Wimbledon final, is staring at a likely third-round clash with last year's breakout semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas but will first confront Chile's Christian Garin or Italian Stefano Travaglia.

Elsewhere, diminutive Argentinian 14th seed Diego Schwartzman cruised past South African Lloyd Harris 6-4 6-2 6-2, and Italian teen sensation Jannik Sinner outgunned Australian qualifier Max Purcell 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-4.

Fiery Italian 12th seed Fabio Fognini survived a scare to progress 3-6 6-7 (7-3) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (10-5) over big-serving American Reilly Opelka.

Polish 31st seed Hubert Hurkacz also fought back from two sets down, beating Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak 6-7 (7-4) 1-6 6-2 6-3 6-4.