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Nadal resumes charge to Grand Slam 17

© AFP/File | Spain's Rafael Nadal hits a return against Dominican Republic's Victor Estrella Burgos during their men's singles first round match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 15, 2018

MELBOURNE (AFP) - 

Rafael Nadal resumes his march towards a 17th Grand Slam title Wednesday after dispelling any lingering injury concerns in his first Australian Open match, with the Spanish star buoyed by feeling fit again.

The world number one faces Argentina's Leonardo Mayer in an afternoon match on Rod Laver Arena on what is forecast to be a hot Melbourne day.

Mayer has never gone beyond the second round at seven previous attempts at Melbourne Park, and there appears to be little hope that he will trouble last year's finalist.

"I'm through to the second round and that's a positive thing for me," Nadal said after losing only three games in his first-round romp.

He said his body was feeling "good" and he had "no problems" with his troublesome knee.

"The most important thing is just enjoy and keep having the passion and the motivation to keep working hard, to be where I am today," he said.

Surprisingly, he is not the prime time men's night match on centre court, with that honour going to third seed Grigor Dimitrov, who takes on American Mackenzie McDonald.

The stylish Bulgarian admits he dreams about winning a Grand Slam, but so far has never got beyond a semi-final.

"I'm going to deal with it. That's all I'm really focusing on," he said about his drive to break his Grand Slam duck.

World number two Caroline Wozniacki also plays on Rod Laver Arena, with her side of the draw wide open after the early exits of Venus Williams, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and 10th seed CoCo Vandeweghe.

Like Dimitrov, the Dane is chasing her first Grand Slam title with her next hurdle Croatia's Jana Fett.

"I've never played her before," she said of Fett. "I guess I'll have to do some scouting and see how she's playing."

Fourth seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who won the lead-up Brisbane International after picking up five WTA Tour titles last year, is also in action, playing Czech Katerina Siniakova.

Venus's conqueror, Belinda Bencic, faces Thailand's Luksika Kumkhum on Hisense Arena, with Australian hope Nick Kyrgios the feature match there in the evening against Serbia's Viktor Troicki.

Sixth seed Marin Cilic and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko are also in action.

© 2018 AFP