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Nadal beats florian mayer at australian open
Spain's Rafael Nadal makes a backhand return to Germany's Florian Mayer during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Ivo Karlovic broke the record for the most number of aces in an Australian Open match after firing 75 past Horacio Zeballos in an exhausting five- set victory. Zeballos hit 33 as the pair slugged it out in a fifth set Karlovic won 22-20, making it also the longest fifth set in Australian Open history.

The fifth set lasted two hours and 57 minutes, with the 37-year-old Karlovic settling the five hours and 15 minutes match to win 6-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20. The previous record for aces in the competition was 51, achieved by Joachim Johansson against Andre Agassi in 2005.

Despite breaking the record for the most aces hit in the Australian Open and the longest fifth set, it is not the longest match: that was the 2012 final won by Novak Djokovic against Rafael Nadal in five hours and 53 minutes.

Djokovic launched his bid for a record seventh Australian Open title with an impressive 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 win over Fernando Verdasco. The Serb, who plays Ivan Dodig or Denis Istomin in the second round, said: “It feels like home. It feels like coming back to the place where I had an incredible amount of beautiful memories.”

Nadal cast aside the disappointments of last year to reach the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Florian Mayer.

Easily avoiding the embarrassment of a consecutive first-round exits at Melbourne Park, the 30-year-old needed a single break in each set to proceed after a little over two hours against the 33-year-old German.

The Spaniard sealed the victory with a 39th winner, the 25th off his forehand, and raised his arms to the skies to accept the salute of the crowd on the court where he won the title in 2009.

“It’s never easy in the first round,” Nadal said. “There are always a few more nerves at the beginning. The way that he plays is not conventional. It’s not easy to read his game.

“So I’m just happy with the way that I played. I played well in all the key points. That’s very important for me. For me it’s a great victory.”

Seeded ninth after a 2016 season which started with the five-set upset against Verdasco and was seriously disrupted then curtailed by a wrist injury, Nadal next faces the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.

The wrist injury forced him to withdraw from last year’s French Open and miss Wimbledon, meaning he failed to reach the quarter-finals of any of the grand slams for the first time since 2004.

“Body’s good, and that’s the key, if the body is not good then everything is more and more difficult, I had to stop before the end of last season,” Nadal said.

“After Roland Garros, everything was so difficult. Too many problems with the wrist and that’s all in the past now. Happy to be healthy and happy to be on the tour again.”

Milos Raonic breezed through with a straight-sets victory over Dustin Brown. The Canadian third seed wasted little time in dispatching the German inside 93 minutes on Margaret Court Arena, with a powerful service game.

Raonic, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park last year, broke Brown once in each of the first two sets and then twice in the third. He also fired 18 aces and another 20 unreturned serves.

“It was what it needed to be,” Raonic said. “It’s obviously tough to have necessarily a solid performance all the way through, but I did what I needed to. I took care of my serve. I broke quite early in all the sets. I returned pretty solid when I had to. I stepped up, and I played well.”

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