Nadal and Murray ease through against strugglers

RAFAEL NADAL and Andy Murray both profited from retirements today as the top seeds continued to make easy progress through the first round of the Australian Open.

World No 1 Nadal won 11 games without reply against Marcos Daniel before the Brazilian mercifully opted to succumb to a knee injury while Murray was also well in control of his match against Karol Beck when the withdrawal came.

The Scot, seeded five, had established a 6-3 6-1 4-2 advantage when Beck called it a day due to a shoulder problem.

Nadal and Murray watched Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic ease through yesterday without dropping a set with only fourth seed Robin Soderling of the likely tournament winners yet to open his campaign.

And, although he was pleased to have conserved plenty of energy against Daniel, Nadal admitted he was none the wiser as to where he stood in terms of form and fitness.

When asked to assess his performance the Spaniard, chasing the 'Rafa Slam' after victories at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year, said: "It's difficult to say whether I played well or badly.

"I think I played alright, I hit some good shots and some bad shots. The serve can be a bit better.

"I feel I have to improve if I want to do well here."

Nadal, who went straight off to the practice courts after the game, could empathise with Daniel after having to retire from his match against Murray in the quarter-finals here last year.

"It's a terrible feeling and I wish him all the best," he added. "He's a really nice guy and I feel sorry for him.

"You don't want to retire but if you are bad it is for the best so you can recover as quickly as possible.

"It's difficult when you have to pull out of a big tournament, last year was a difficult time for me."

Beck was at least competitive against Murray but the world number five's class showed at crucial times as he combined stoic defence with some thrilling winners.

Murray, chasing his first grand slam crown, took the first set after breaking in Beck's first service game and ran through the second.

The Slovakian took a medical timeout at 2-1 down but battled on bravely until dropping his serve once more to hand Murray a 4-2 lead.

Sensing he was not going to turn it around, Beck offered his hand at the net rather than carry on and risk further damage.

Seventh seed David Ferrer advanced today, seeing off Jarkko Nieminen in four sets, as did 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny, who beat Marsel Ilhan, 11th seed Jurgen Melzer - a 6-2 6-4 6-2 victor over Vincent Millot, and number 15 Marin Cilic, who proved too strong for Donald Young.

Juan Martin Del Potro's return to grand slam tennis started with an encouraging victory over Dudi Sela.

The Argentinian former US Open winner, who has not competed at a major since last year in Australia due to a wrist injury, beat the Israeli 7-6 (15/13), 6-4 6-4.

Exciting young Australian Bernard Tomic and big-serving American John Isner also progressed