Rafael Nadal wins Wimbledon opener

Updated: June 21, 2011, 2:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- Rafael Nadal opened his Wimbledon title defense with a convincing victory Monday, beating Michael Russell 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 on a "fantastic" day while his parents watched from the Royal Box.

In keeping with tradition, the defending men's champion played the first match on Centre Court at the All England Club -- and the top-ranked Spaniard put on a worthy performance to begin the 125th edition of the championships.

Nadal, coming off his sixth French Open title and 10th overall Grand Slam championship, double-faulted to go down a break 4-2 in the first set against the 91st-ranked Russell. But Nadal buckled down, ran off six straight games to take the set and go up a break in the second. He was in command the rest of the way against the 33-year-old American.

"I started so-so in the first set, but after that I start to hit very well the forehand and I think I finished playing a very good level," Nadal said.

The two players shared a laugh after Russell successfully challenged what had been ruled an ace by Nadal on match point. Nadal won the next point, though, to finish the match in just under two hours.

It was the first time Nadal has walked onto Centre Court as defending champion. After winning the title for the first time in 2008, he missed the tournament the following year with a knee injury.

"Fantastic," he said. "Seriously, I never played in a court like this. (It) was a big emotion to be the first player to play in this fabulous court. It was a very, very exciting feeling."

Watching from the Royal Box were Nadal's parents, Sebastian and Ana Maria.

"Too many beautiful things to see my mom and my dad in the Royal Box," Nadal said. "I think for them (it) was a great experience. So, everything in general was very, very nice today."

Andy Murray, playing on Centre Court under the retractable roof after play outside of the arena was halted due to rain, swept the last 15 games after an uncertain start to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0.

Gimeno-Traver appeared to relish taking on the local favorite and his dangerous forehand helped him take the first set with a single break.

But the fourth-seeded Murray, bidding to become the first Briton to win the men's title in 75 years, broke for the first time in the seventh game of the second set and didn't lose another game. The 56th-ranked Gimeno-Traver, who had treatment on a knee injury, won nine points in the third set and only six in the fourth.

Nadal now faces another American, 69th-ranked Ryan Sweeting of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who dropped the first two sets against Pablo Andujar of Spain before coming all the way back to win 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1.

It'll be Sweeting's third match against Nadal this year. Nadal won the others in straight sets, including at the Australian Open.

"They keep putting me up in the top half of the draw. I don't know what the deal is," Sweeting said. "What can I say? He's obviously one of the toughest opponents to play on any surface."

The second question at Nadal's news conference concerned whether he believes Murray, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic is likeliest to thwart his title hopes.

"My biggest opponent is Sweeting now. I am focused on my part of the draw. I'm focused on myself. To play against Andy or Djokovic or Federer only can be in the final; against Andy in the semifinals," the Spaniard replied. "So let's talk about today. Let's talk about tomorrow. ... Let's (not) talk about ... 10 days or 12 days (from now), because I don't know if I am here or I am fishing in Mallorca."

The first seeded man to lose was No. 30 Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil -- 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-2 to 35-year-old German Rainer Schuettler, the oldest player in the men's draw.

Sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who lost to Nadal in last year's final, moved on with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over Filippo Volandri of Italy. He served 12 aces.

Tenth-seeded American Mardy Fish beat Spain's Marcel Granollers 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-4. Big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, playing his first Wimbledon, topped Marc Gicquel of France 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3. No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Potito Starace of Italy 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Other winners included two Frenchmen -- No. 9 Gael Monfils, who beat Matthias Bachinger 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and No. 17 Richard Gasquet, who defeated Santiago Giraldo 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.