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Sunday, January 15, 2012
Updated: January 16, 11:54 AM ET
Rafael Nadal rolls on despite knee

ESPN.com news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Rafael Nadal has a new injury -- a tendon problem in his right knee that nearly prompted him to forfeit a first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday that he went on to win handily.

Roger Federer, also bothered by injury coming into the tournament, advanced to the second round in more routine fashion and appeared as if he was over his ailment.

But that wasn't the case with Nadal. Bothered by a left shoulder injury late last year, Nadal had his right knee heavily taped during his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Alex Kuznetsov.

"I was sitting on a chair in the hotel, I felt like a crack on the knee ... really strange," Nadal said. "I stand up. I felt the knee a little bit strange. I moved the leg like this two times to try to find the feeling. After the second time, the knee stays with an unbelievable pain completely straight. I have no movement on the knee."

Nadal
Rafael Nadal had his right knee heavily taped during his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Alex Kuznetsov.

"I wasn't 100 percent sure I would have a chance to play," Nadal added.

The Spaniard decided to play after an MRI exam showed no major damage, but he still had concerns going into the match.

"I started with a little bit of a scare at the beginning, and nervous because I was really disappointed yesterday," he said. "But after the first 10 games ... I started to play with normal conditions.

"The best thing is I felt the knee very well. I really don't understand why happened everything, but I am really happy that today I was ready to play and I played a fantastic match."

Federer, who pulled out of a tournament in Doha two weeks ago with back soreness, began the quest for his 17th Grand Slam title -- and first since the 2010 Australian Open -- with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev.

It was Federer's 60th win at the Australian Open, and he also has 60-plus wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The third-seeded Federer took the first two sets and was up a break in the third before the Russian rallied with a break of serve in the fifth game of the final set. Federer, however, broke Kudryavtsev in the next game with a backhand cross-court winner and sealed the match when the Russian hit a forehand wide.

"No problem, I am happy to be 100 percent fit," Federer said after his win.

Just as quickly, he batted away speculation about a possibly divisive issue with Nadal.

Nadal was critical of Federer on Sunday for not speaking out publicly in support of players who are pushing the ATP for changes in areas such as tournament scheduling and prize money.

"Things are fine between us, you know. I have no hard feelings towards him," Federer said. "It's been a difficult last few months in terms of politics within the ATP.

Nadal has "mentioned many times how he gets a bit tired and frustrated through the whole process, and I shared that with him. It's normal. But for me, obviously nothing changes in terms of our relationship. I'm completely cool and relaxed about it."

The Hisense Arena crowd was solidly behind Nadal, particularly the groups of young women who screamed and whistled when he changed his shirt and yelled "We love you Rafa" and "Vamos Rafa!" between games. He didn't give them a chance to cheer for long, needing only about 30 minutes each to win the final two sets.

Most of the local attention Monday was on 19-year-old Bernard Tomic, who rallied from two sets down to beat No. 22-seeded Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. A five-set win over the 2009 semifinalist will no doubt give Tomic a confidence boost as he attempts to become the first Australian man since 1976 to win the national title.

"Today wasn't fun, it was torture," said Tomic, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year. "I don't know how I found the energy to lift, how I did it, but I thank the crowd."

Eighth-seeded Mardy Fish, the highest ranked of the U.S. men, had a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Gilles Muller to advance along with 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, No. 7 Tomas Berdych, No. 10 Nicolas Almagro, No. 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov, No. 18 Feliciano Lopez, No. 21 Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 30 Kevin Anderson.

No. 25 Juan Monaco, No. 28 Ivan Ljubicic and No. 31 Jurgen Melzer joined Verdasco as other seeded players to lose.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.