Nadal Makes Winning Return to Grand Slam Stage


New York, Sep 3: Rafael Nadal marked a winning return to Grand Slam play three months after his last match at a major, as the Spanish third seed advanced to the US Open second round 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 Wednesday over Richard Gasquet.

Nadal, who toppled from his number one ranking when Roger Federer won Wimbledon and was then overhauled by Andy Murray, last played at the elite level when he lost in the French Open fourth round on May 31 to Robin Soderling.

For nearly two and a half months, the Spaniard's main job was resting a pair of knees plagued by tendinitis.

But the 22-year-old showed he's eager to resume the battle as he ploughed past his good friend Gasquet in little more than 90 minutes. The winner dominated with seven aces and five breaks of serve in the pro forma opening contest.

"I'm practicing well, playing with good tactics and a positive attitude," said Nadal. "That's the important thing right now. Later I'll try to get more rhythm and more confidence winning matches.

Gasquet was playing for the first time since his exoneration from allegations that he tested positive for cocaine.

The win leaves Nadal 7-0 in the series and facing Nicolas Kiefer after the German beat Michael Llodra of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Meanwhile, crowd-pleasers Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro bid farewell to their careers at the majors with losses, both men set to retire in two months after the Paris Bercy event.

Austrian Jurgen Melzer beat 2000 Open champion Safin 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, while ex-Roland Garros holder Juan Carlos Ferrero stopped Santoro 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Safin wants to remain out of the tennis loop when he gives up the game, characterizing the Open as a "zoo".

"Here, first few days, it's like a zoo. It's like a million people running around, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, so many people. That's pretty much annoying."

Santoro has one abiding dream when he hangs up his racket: "I'm going to change, and I want to be home. I want to see my friends; I want to spend more time with my daughter. I want to live, like normal life. But that's the question: What is a normal life?"

France's 13th seed Gael Monfils defeated countryman Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 to advance while Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay put out Australian Chris Guccione 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0.

Two-time women's champion Venus Williams, bothered with a knee injury that she will not discuss, managed a victory against Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 6-2.

Williams produced her best tennis in New York in 2000 and 2001 before the rise of her sister Serena.

But the 29-year-old still has her fighting spirit and is determined to not let physical problems get the better of her game.

"I don't talk about my injuries very much. I don't dwell on them," Venus said. "I just do my best."

Seeds Vera Zvonareva (seventh), Victoria Azarenka (eighth) and number 10 Italian Flavia Pennetta joined Williams in the third round.

Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak handed two-time Grand Slam winner Amelie Mauresmo her earliest career defeat at the Open, 6-4, 6-0.

Wozniak, ranked 39th, was untouchable against an off-form Mauresmo, holder of 25 titles including the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon trophies.

Kim Clijsters took her career comeback another step with an upset of 14th seed Marion Bartoli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, while Russian Maria Kirilenko put out 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

American Vania King knocked out Australian 15th seed Samantha Stosur 7-5, 6-4.


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Title: Nadal Makes Winning Return to Grand Slam Stage

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