World No. 1 Rafael Nadal got his grass-court season off to a good start by dismissing Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the AEGON Championships at London’s Queen’s Club Wednesday.
Nadal broke Ebden, the 23-year-old World No. 168, in the first game of the match, and that was all he needed to clinch the first set.
The Spaniard rarely struggled to win points on his serve. He won 82 percent of his first-serve points and 60 percent of his second serve. Although Ebden won a similar percentage of first serves he won only 33 percent of his second-serve points.
Nadal broke again in Ebden’s first service game in the second set, despite the Australian winning 50 percent of points on his second serve. Ebden did have one chance to break back, but this year’s French Open champion held him off.
His next opponent is the 57th-ranked Radek Stepanek, the man who caused the only upset of the day by beating 16th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic 0-6, 7-5, 6-4. Nadal has a 3-0 advantage against the Czech, but they haven’t played since 2005.
Stepanek did not start the match well. He had a 75 percent first-serve percentage, but he won 44 percent of his first-serve points and only one point on his second serve.
Meanwhile, Ljubicic won every point he got his first serve in, and 67 percent of his second-serve points.
Stepanek’s serving struggles led to him being broken three times in the opening set. He elevated his game in the second set, winning far more points on his second serve and returning more effectively, winning 80 percent of Ljubicic’s second serve points.
The third set turned into a serving contest, and one break of serve decided the final outcome.
Andy Murray, the Scottish No. 2 seed, overcame a tough challenge from Belgium’s Xavier Malisse to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
Murray had an unusual match in that he won more points on his second serve than his first serve. He won 74 percent of his second-serve points and 69 percent of his first-serve points, which worked in his favor because he had a 62 percent first-serve percentage.
One break of serve decided the first and second sets, while Murray snuck away with two breaks of serve in the third set.
In the third round, he plays 14th-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic, today’s 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victor against American Michael Russell.
The Serbian is a dangerous opponent for Murray, as they have a 3-3 record against each other. Tipsarevic won their last match in three sets at the 2010 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Tipsarevic was not the only Serbian to win at Queen’s today. Ilija Bozoljac, the World No. 200, upset ninth-seeded David Nalbandian 6-4, 6-4. This was Nalbandian’s first match since a Davis Cup tie against Romania in April.
The No. 12 seeded Juan Martin del Potro defeated Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-4, Marin Cilic dismissed French veteran Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-4 and Thomaz Bellucci survived a three-set battle against Marsel Ilhan 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5).
Finally, the No. 15 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa defeated young American Donald Young 6-2, 6-4.