After spending most of the last six months on the sidelines in an extended injury layoff, and after a first-round loss in a warm-up tournament, the 14-time Grand Slam winner said he was low on confidence coming into the first major of the year.
The Spaniard remedied that, for a while at least, with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Russian veteran
"Very positive result for me. I think very good start," he said. "Always before the first match you always have the doubts, especially in this situation I'm arriving here. Never easy, but it was an important match for me … a comfortable victory that give me some confidence."
The Australian Open is the only major Nadal hasn't won at least twice, and he has long wanted another triumph in Melbourne to complete a second full career Grand Slam. He has come close, losing to
A right wrist injury and an appendix operation that limited Nadal to seven matches after
And a Jan. 5 loss to
"When that happens after a tough period of injuries you arrive here with doubts," he said. "This first match was tough mentally for me.
"Today is very hard to speak about having (title) chances. I have one match. That's better than two days ago, but I need more to feel that I am ready for something very important here. It's the moment to really give to this victory the right value."
On a day when eight of the seeded players tumbled out of the women's draw, wins by three of the stronger contenders stood out.
Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open champion, collected her fifth Grand Slam title by winning at the
"It was definitely great to get a title in last week. I don't think I've done that in my career, winning a title to begin the year," she said. "That was nice. When you come here everything is new and fresh. Of course, it's a nice feeling to have that victory, but you have to start from scratch."
Only two of the men's seeded players went out. No. 11