MELBOURNE, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) - Defending champion Rafael Nadal pounded his way into the Australian Open third round on Wednesday alongside Kim Clijsters who showed nerves of steel to come through a tough test.
Nadal of Spain hits a return against Peter Luczak of Australia in their men's singles first round match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2010. AFP photo)
Other top names also showed their mettle including Andy Roddick and Svetlana Kuznetsova, while Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka made the second round as rain-delayed matches held over from Tuesday were cleared.
Spanish second seed Nadal was in rip-roaring form as he smashed hapless Slovak Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to stay on track for a potential quarter-final against Andy Murray, who plays later.
Clijsters found the going harder.
She only conceded four games against her first round oppenent but she was given a more thorough examination by Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn.
The 26-year-old Belgian, who won the lead-up Brisbane International, eventually triumphed 6-3, 6-3, but it was harder than the score suggested for the 15th seed, now back full time after a break to start a family.
Her serve was broken in each set before she dug deep to dispose of the Thai, playing in her 51st Grand Slam.
"Physically, I feel good," she said.
"I feel like I'm good enough on the day to beat my opponents. It's not with my best tennis yet, but hopefully I can save that when it's really necessary."
Clijsters could meet fellow comeback queen Justine Henin in the quarter-finals, although Henin has a major hurdle to clear in fifth seed Elena Dementieva on Rod Laver Arena later Wednesday.
Unlike the high-profile Clijsters and Henin, Russian third seed Kuznetsova is flying under the radar and looked impressive in her 6-2, 6-2 defeat of countrywoman Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The French Open champion, whose best effort here has been the quarter-finals, said she had prepared well in the off-season and was ready to make an impact.
"I think I've done a good pre-season, I've worked hard and I've enjoyed it," she said.
"I mean, I'm feeling good. I worked on new things."
Fourth seed Wozniacki downed Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4, 6-2 to get her campaign off to a winning start.
The Dane, who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2009, winning three titles and finishing runner-up to Clijsters at the US Open, edged a tight first set but overpowered her opponent in the second.
"I had a tough opponent, so I was really happy to get through," she said.
"I was feeling confident on the court and comfortable."
"I'm really happy about the way things are going and I've been practising hard, so I'm really pleased about the way I'm playing."
Belarussian seventh seed Victoria Azarenka blasted her way into the second round by crushing France's Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-2, 6-0, while China's 16th seed Li coasted past New Zealand's Marina Erakovic in straight sets.
Ninth-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva also pushed on deeper into the tournament, sending Slovakia's Kristina Kucova packing 6-2, 6-0.
Maria Sharapova remains the highest profile casualty on the women's side and her Russian conqueror Maria Kirilenko marched into the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 romp against Austria's Yvonne Meusburger.
In the men's draw, Roddick ranted at the umpire after completing a straight sets win over Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.
The American seventh seed had just served out a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win when he continued to argue over a Hawk Eye video review decision which narrowly went against him on the first of his two match points.
Elsewhere, 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez was the first man into the third round with his 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win over Turkey's Marsel Ilhan.