Nadal is smooth in return to Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal looked like he had never been away as he made a welcome return to Wimbledon with a ruthless victory over Kei Nishikori.

Rafael Nadal of Spain defeated Kei Nishikori of Japan in the first round.
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LONDON // Rafael Nadal looked like he had never been away as he made a welcome return to Wimbledon with a ruthless victory yesterday over Kei Nishikori, the Japanese wildcard. The Spanish world No 1 missed out on defending his title last June as he nursed his aching knees back home in Mallorca. On the second day of the championships, he was back on a sun-soaked Centre Court and wasted little time in tormenting an opponent whom he had once tipped as a 'future top 10 player'.

The 20-year-old Nishikori, on a comeback trail after missing most of the 2009 season with an elbow injury, had the audacity to break Nadal for 3-3 in the third set but his joy was short-lived. Nishikori, whose ranking has dropped to 189 since his injury, saved four break points in the next game but had no answer to a superb backhand from Nadal on a fifth. Nadal, who sprang from his chair even before the umpire had finished saying 'Time' at every change of ends, powered to victory with an overhead smash on match point to finish in just over two hours.

"It is always special to play on this court so I am very happy to come back to this tournament and play on probably the most beautiful and most emblematic court in the world," Nadal told a news conference. Asked if he was nervous about possibly playing his second-round match against Robin Haase in front of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who will attend the tournament for the first time in 33 years tomorrow , Nadal shrugged.

"I would love to have the chance to say hello to her but that's it," he said, before adding in Spanish: "I would love to have a photo with her." Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, meanwhile, has so far saved his best tennis for the hard courts of the Australian Open. He now hopes to make his mark at Wimbledon. The French No 1 said he was still learning his trade on the Wimbledon grass after battling past Robert Kendrick, the big-serving American qualifier, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 yesterday. The 25-year-old, seeded 10, is making only his third appearance at the All England club following his debut in 2007 when he reached the fourth round.

"Robert is a very good player. I knew before the match it would be difficult, and it was," Tsonga said after withstanding a barrage of 28 aces from Kendrick. Robin Soderling breezed into the second round with a rapid 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Robby Ginepri. The Swedish sixth seed has never gone beyond the last 16 in seven previous visits to the All England Club but his total dominance of Ginepri, the world No 72, more than hinted he could progress further this year.

Andy Murray, seeded fourth, overcame a nervy start to ease through to the second round, his class finally telling in a 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jan Hajek, the unheralded Czech. James Blake, a former world No 4, said he was considering his future in the sport after an "embarrassing" defeat at the hands of Robin Haase, a Dutchman. The 30-year-old was a shadow of his former dashing self in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 defeat - his second consecutive first-round defeat at Wimbledon.

Samantha Stosur, the French Open runner-up, will play no further part in the tournament after exiting at the first-round stage for the fourth time in eight appearances at the All England Club. The sixth-seeded Stosur lost to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, the 80th-ranked qualifier, 6-4, 6-4. Serena Williams has promised Queen Elizabeth a curtsy "she'll definitely never forget" tomorrow but the Wimbledon champion will not be tempted into wearing an outrageous outfit.

Serena sailed through the first round yesterday, despatching Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-0, 6-4 in just over an hour. "I was going to curtsy today on the court afterwards but I think I flubbed it. So I am definitely going to work on it a little bit more." * Agencies