Nadal, Djokovic win opening matches in Cincinnati

August 18, 2010 09:51 PM
Rafael Nadal in action against Taylor Dent

MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Four games, 16 minutes, only nine points lost. Rafael Nadal couldn't have gotten off to a much better start.

The top-ranked player defeated American Taylor Dent 6-2, 7-5 on Wednesday in his opening match at the Cincinnati Masters. He took control by dominating the first four games, setting up his 35th victory in his last 37 matches.

Second-ranked Roger Federer, third-ranked Novak Djokovic, fourth-ranked Andy Murray and No. 13 Andy Roddick - the top-ranked American - also advanced.

Nadal had his serve broken only once in the match. The Spaniard broke Dent - the 83rd-ranked player - right back to even the second set, and again to pull ahead 6-5, putting him in position to close it out.

"In the beginning, he had a lot of mistakes,'' Nadal said. "In the second, that's what happens when you play against a big server. I was waiting to have my chances.''

The top players got first-round byes, so their opening matches presented the first chance to get accustomed to the extremely fast court. Players say the balls are skipping much faster than they did at their hard-court tournament in Toronto last week, where Murray beat Federer for the title.

"For us, it's difficult to adapt, especially if you only have one or two days,'' Nadal said. "This first match is always dangerous.''

One other notable change was the weather.

Temperatures in Cincinnati can reach 120 degrees on court, which is especially a problem for Djokovic. He got a break from the heat during his 6-3, 7-5 win over fellow Serb Viktor Troicki in the day's opening match. The midday temperature was 79 degrees.

Djokovic feels the heat more than other players, and his allergies can kick in when it's extremely hot.

"I do react a little bit different than other players,'' he said. "I do have some respiratory problems, depending on the conditions I play in. But you know, you've got to try to overcome that. I'm not the only player who has issues out there.''

Roddick was dealing with a different issue. He dropped out of Toronto last week and had blood tests to find out why he was feeling sluggish the last two months. Turns out he's getting over a mild case of mononucleosis.

On Monday, Roddick had to go three sets, including a tiebreaker, to pull out his first-round win. Facing Thiemo de Bakker two days later, he never faced a break point during a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory. Roddick won the last four points in the tiebreaker, came out re-energized and got the match's only service break to take control.

"I was feeling a little ordinary at the end of the match the other night,'' Roddick said. "I feel better today. I've definitely felt better than I have the last couple of months.''

Federer advanced when his opponent, qualifier Denis Istomin, hurt his right foot and ankle during a rally and had to quit the match after only 28 minutes. Istomin, the top player from Uzbekistan, trailed 5-2 when he pulled up and sat down in the corner of the court, removing his shoe.

Istomin got the foot and ankle taped, but couldn't put much weight on the leg and decided to retire.

While sad that Istomin got hurt, Federer welcomed the easy night coming off his finals match in Toronto.

"If there is a right timing for this, it's now, I guess,'' Federer said. "It gives me an extra day to get into it. From that standpoint, it's good.''

Murray had the toughest time of the top seeds, forced to regroup after a second-set meltdown for a 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-2 win over France's Jeremy Chardy. Murray led 5-4 in the second set before Chardy broke his serve to avoid a quick elimination, then became more aggressive and ran off five straight points to win the tiebreaker.

"He started playing a lot better,'' Murray said. "At the end of the second set, he started going for everything. When he started making some shots, I was a little uncomfortable.''

Down 2-1 in the third set, Chardy took a medical timeout and had his right foot treated. He had his serve broken in the next game and never recovered.

Mardy Fish pulled off the biggest upset at the $2.4 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, beating eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4).