Strike talk recedes as stars win in Melbourne

Strike talk recedes as stars win in Melbourne

Strike talk recedes as stars win in Melbourne

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, the top-ranked women’s player in the world, needed just 76 minutes to smash Anastasia Rodionova to cruise to the next round of the Australian Open. Wozniacki is seeking her maiden Grand Slam win in Melbourne. AP photo

Top players moved to dampen down talk of a potential revolt and rift in the men’s ranks as the Australian Open got underway in stifling conditions yesterday with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer both winning.

After a week of drizzle and heavy cloud cover, blue skies welcomed the players to the tournament’s opening day with temperatures rising quickly in the morning and flirting with 30 degrees Celsius before midday.

The heat, however, was the least of their concerns as some of the men began to openly discuss the possibility of a strike later in the season unless they and the ATP could come to an agreement on a more equitable split of prize money and a revamped playing schedule.

“It’s (strike) such a dangerous word to use,” world number three Federer said after his first-round victory over Russian qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev. “That’s why I always say, ‘let’s try to avoid it as much as we can’.”

While temperatures rose behind the scenes, world number two Nadal took advantage of cooler conditions in the early evening and romped into the second round with a 6-4 6-1 6-1 victory over Alex Kuznetsov.

Women’s champion Kim Clijsters also got her title defense off to a strong start with a 7-5 6-1 win over Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler, while world number one Caroline Wozniacki smashed Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova 6-2 6-1 in 76 minutes.

Earlier, local fans had plenty to cheer with Bernard Tomic coming back from a two-set deficit to beat 2009 semifinalist Fernando Verdasco 4-6 6-7 6-4 6-2 7-5 in 251 minutes.

“The crowd always want an Australian in the final but they don’t realize it’s one of the hardest things in the world,” Tomic said. “To have so many world class players you have to beat on the way to get to the quarters, let alone a final, it’s the hardest thing. I’m only going to learn and get confidence, and one day be in the position to get to the finals of majors.”

Azarenka had missed her morning coffee and was in no mood to hang around in the Melbourne heat, getting her campaign off to a flying start with a 6-1 6-0 victory over Britain’s Heather Watson.

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