MELBOURNE – Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray all spent mercifully little time on court but Lleyton Hewitt bowed out in a five-set thriller in sweltering conditions at the Australian Open Tuesday.
Top seed Nadal was only on court for 41 minutes as his first-round Australian opponent Bernard Tomic retired in a night match with a groin injury after the Spaniard had won the opening set 6-4.
Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam title-winner, made light work of Australian wildcard James Duckworth, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour 46 minutes as temperatures hovered around 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) during the day.
Three-time runner-up Andy Murray was on court for one hour 27 minutes to register a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Japan’s Go Soeda.
But fiercely competitive Hewitt will not join the superstars in the second round after going down 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5 to Italian 24th seed Andreas Seppi in a draining four hours and 18 minutes.
Tomic looked to be in discomfort from the injury and sought courtside treatment throughout the set from a physio before he called a premature halt.
It was a massive anti-climax to the most anticipated match of the men’s first round with the talented if undisciplined world number 57 Tomic.
Nadal was sympathetic about Tomic’s plight and clapped the Australian as he left the court.
“I am very sorry for Bernard and I hope you get better very soon,” Nadal said.
“I know how tough this situation is as I had the same situation a few years ago here on this court, so all the best to him for the rest of the year.”
Elsewhere on a gruelling day’s play at Melbourne Park, former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro came from a set down to oust American Rhyne Williams.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori was taken to five sapping sets with Australian Marinko Matosevic before advancing, and former Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brushed aside Italian Filippo Volandri in straight sets.
Federer said he was ready to prove he is not a spent force after making a winning start under new coach Stefan Edberg.
Federer has more Grand Slam titles than any other player but only one, Wimbledon 2012, in the last four years. He is currently ranked at world number six.
He said he was excited to be teaming up with former world number one and six-time major champion Edberg, and was ready to prove he could rediscover his best form.
“I feel good, I’m excited. For me I want to show, prove to myself that I can bring it every match. I’m really excited. It’s a tough draw, but I’m open for it and I’m ready to go,” Federer said.
Murray, the fourth seed, is working his way to full match fitness after back surgery last September.
Murray said his back felt fully recovered, but added that the long lay-off meant the rest of his body was not yet at the level he would like.
With new coach Michael Chang watching in the stands, Nishikori finished the better in the heatwave conditions to fight off the 54th-ranked Matosevic.
Czech veteran Radek Stepanek was a casualty on Tuesday after being forced out with a neck injury while leading his first-round match with Blaz Kavcic.
Stepanek, 35, was leading 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 1-6, 0-2 at the time of his retirement.(AFP)