Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal was in fine form in the first round of the Australian Open. Image Credit: AFP

Melbourne: Top seed Rafael Nadal turned on the style as he launched his bid for a record-equalling 20th Major title at the Australian Open on Tuesday, but falling star Maria Sharapova hit a career low.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also cantered into the second round, but fourth seed Daniil Medvedev had to fight his way past American Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

Nadal, one shy of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam mark, dropped only five games as he swatted aside Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in just over two hours at a sunny Rod Laver Arena.

“It was a positive start,” said the reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion, wearing a bright pink singlet and matching trainers.

“What you want in the first round is just to win, and it’s better if it’s in straight sets.”

He joins Federer and defending champion Novak Djokovic in round two as the Big Three look to tighten a stranglehold that has brought them all but one of the last 14 Australian Open titles.

Nadal, the first player to be world No. 1 in three different decades, is still thriving at 33 but it’s a different story for five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova.

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova crashed out of the Australian Open in the first round. Image Credit: AFP

The 32-year-old, playing on a wild card as she wrestles with a shoulder injury, lost 6-3, 6-4 to Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic, making her an opening-round loser at three straight Grand Slams for the first time.

The future looks uncertain for the former world No. 1, who won Wimbledon when she was just 17 but has not reached a Grand Slam final since she lifted the 2014 French Open trophy.

“I can speak about my struggles and the things that I’ve gone through with my shoulder, but it’s not really in my character to,” Sharapova said.

“I was there, I put myself out there [playing]. As tough as it was, I finished the match — it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”

Britain’s Johanna Konta, a two-time Slam semi-finalist, also fell at the first hurdle as she battles to overcome a knee problem, losing 6-4, 6-2 to unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

On a bumper day of 88 first-round matches, after rain wiped out half of Monday’s schedule, former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic both moved safely through.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, two sets down against America’s Reilly Opelka when their match was suspended on Monday, returned to win it in five after a stormy encounter when both players argued furiously with the umpire.

Australia’s Kyrgios kept his notorious temper in check despite being taken to two tiebreaks in a 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 win over Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

“I feel super-comfortable, you guys are the best. I feel the support. I am ready to go again,” Kyrgios told the crowd.

Medvedev, the narrow loser to Nadal in September’s US Open final, dropped the second set against Tiafoe before recovering to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who has reached the last two French Open finals, went through in straight sets against Adrian Mannarino, while 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka needed four to get past Damir Dzumhur.

Women’s fourth seed Simona Halep survived some painful-looking falls to beat America’s Jennifer Brady, and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber dropped only four games against Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy.

Select results:

Men’s singles

Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Hugo Dellien (BOL) 6-2, 6-3, 6-0

Nick Kyrgios (AUS x23) bt Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-2, 7-6, 7-6

Gael Monfils (FRA x10) bt Lu Yen-Hsun (TPE) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2

Dominic Thiem (AUT x5) bt Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2

Daniil Medvedev (RUS x4) bt Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

Stan Wawrinka (SUI x15) bt Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4

David Goffin (BEL x11) bt Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4, 6-3, 6-1

Alexander Zverev (GER x7) bt Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4, 7-6, 6-3

Fabio Fognini (ITA x12) bt Reilly Opelka (USA) 3-6, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6

Milos Raonic (CAN x32) bt Lorenzo Giustino (ITA) 6-2, 6-1, 6-3

Roberto Bautista (ESP x9) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 7-5

Women’s singles

Alison Riske (USA x18) bt Wang Yafan (CHN) 7-6, 2-6, 6-3

Madison Keys (USA x10) bt Darya Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3, 6-1

Ons Jabeur (TUN) bt Johanna Konta (GBR x12) 6-4, 6-2

Belinda Bencic (SUI x6) bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3, 7-5

Donna Vekic (CRO x19) bt Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4

Simona Halep (ROU x4) bt Jennifer Brady (USA) 7-6, 6-1

Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) bt Katie Boulter (GBR) 6-4, 7-5

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) bt Shelby Rogers (USA) 0-6, 6-1, 6-0

Anna Blinkova (RUS) bt Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 7-5, 6-4

Kiki Bertens (NED x9) bt Irina Begu (ROU) 6-1, 6-4

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) bt Marketa Vondrousova (CZE x15) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4

Angelique Kerber (GER x17) bt Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-2, 6-2

Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-1, 7-5