Australian Open Day Two Notes

* Day Two at the Australian Open is filled with star power. US Open champions Rafael Nadal and Kim Clijsters are featured on Rod Laver along with Aussie hope Sam Stosur and a huge showcase night match pitting Lleyton Hewitt against David Nalbandian. Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marcos Baghdatis, Ana Ivanovic and Vera Zvonareva are also on the docket.

* Rafael Nadal continues his assault on the record books. In his last Major the Spaniard collected a Career Slam winning the US Open. Now, Nadal sets his sights on an even greater feat, winning the “Rafa Slam”. Nadal, who’s never lost a first round match at a major (26-0), opens up against 32-year-old Brazlian journeyman Marcos Daniel. The 32-year-old Daniel has just one career Grand Slam match win to his name. In contrast, Nadal hasn’t lost a match point at a Slam since the 2009 US Open semifinals to Del Potro (Nadal retired to Murray in Australia last year).

* With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer soaking up all the attention, 2010 Australian Open finalist Andy Murray enters the tournament a little under the radar this year and almost as the forgotten man. Murray said he trained hard in the off season – less tennis, more physical work – and remains confident in his bid to capture a first Grand Slam. On Hisense, Murray makes his official 2010 debut seeking a 200th career hardcourt win in a first-time clash with 28-year-old Karol Beck.

* In the blockbuster match of the first round, Australian star Lleyton Hewitt meets David Nalbandian in a battle of the bad hips under the lights of Rod Laver Arena. At 29, Hewitt is now in his 15th season and the former No. 1 is as hard-nosed as ever. The father of three says that he trained harder than anyone during the off season and comes into 2011 with an eye on returning to the top of game. But Nalbandian is about as dangerous a guy he could draw in the first round. The Argentine beat Hewitt in straight sets last year in Sydney and seems to be in form after ripping through the Auckland draw before losing to Ferrer in the final on Saturday.

* Kim Clijsters and Dinara Safina, both former No.1s, are at different places in their careers – No.3-ranked Clijsters could get back to No.1 here, while No.75-ranked Safina is very far from it. Will this be the Clijsters show or will Safina bring back the kind of tennis that took her to the very top of the sport?

* Samantha Stosur has been Australia’s No.1 for a long time but this year she comes into her home Grand Slam as one of the world’s Top 10. Will the World No.6 feel the pressure in her first match of the fortnight or will she cruise against 17-year-old WTA main draw debutante Lauren Davis?

* Ana Ivanovic won 13 of her last 15 matches of 2010, a statement she is finding her top form again. This will be her first match of 2011. She beat Ekaterina Makarova easily in their only prior meeting, but Makarova can catch fire – she has 12 Top 20 wins, including five in a row in Eastbourne last year.

* Aussie hopes: French open finalist Sam Stosur will be the heavy favorite against 17-year-old American Lauren Davis on Rod Laver. Upcoming Aussie Bernard Tomic is on against the tough Jeremy Chardy on Hisense and Alicia Molik returns to the Aussie Open to play Roberta Vinci.

* American Watch: 20 Americans began, yesterday the men went 2-2, women 2-4, overall 4-6. Today, 10 are in action. Men (4) – Isner (v. Serra, 3rd CT6), Young (v. Cilic, 2nd CT2), Russell (v. Ebden, 1st MCA), Sweeting (v. Gimeno-Traver, 2nd CT11). Women (6) – Davis (v. Stosur, 3rd RLA), Vandeweghe (v. Cornet, 2nd CT5), Lepchenko (v. Garcia, 3rd CT8), Falconi (v. Kleybanova, 3rd CT11), Oudin (v. Zakopolova, 3rd CT14). McHale (v. Suarez Navarro, 4th CT14).

* Upset Alert: One of the most intriguing matches on Tuesday is a first-time tour level meeting between veterans Jarkko Nieminen of Finland and No. 7 seed David Ferrer. Both players have compiled similar results in Melbourne, with career-best quarterfinal showings in 2008. Ferrer is coming off his 10th career ATP Tour title in Auckland over the weekend and Nieminen has been in Melbourne and used to the conditions. Look for a lengthy battle on Court 3.

* Forecast: Tues – isolated morning showers, high 71F; Wed – partly cloudy, high 73F; Thurs – sunny, high 84F; Fri
– isolated showers, high 82F; Sat – sunny, high 80F; Sun – cloudy, high 86F.

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