MASON, Ohio – Four games, 16 minutes, only nine points lost. Rafael Nadal couldn't have gotten off to a much better start.
The top-ranked player defeated American Taylor Dent 6-2, 7-5 on Wednesday in his opening match at the Cincinnati Masters. He took control by dominating the first four games, setting up his 35th victory in his last 37 matches.
The Spaniard was broken only once, in the second set. He broke Dent — the 83rd-ranked player — right back to even the match, then again to pull ahead 6-5.
Dent's best moment was a 149 mph ace to finish off a game in the second set, drawing an ovation from a crowd pulling for the 29-year-old Californian.
The top players got first-round byes, so their opening matches presented the first chance to get accustomed to the extremely fast court. Players say the balls are skipping much faster than they did at their hard-court tournament in Toronto last week, where Andy Murray beat Roger Federer for the title.
One other notable change was the weather.
Temperatures in Cincinnati can reach 120 degrees on court, which is especially a problem for third-ranked Novak Djokovic. He got a break from the heat during his 6-3, 7-5 win over fellow Serb Viktor Troicki in the day's opening match Wednesday. The midday temperature was 79 degrees with low humidity.
Djokovic feels the heat more than other players, and his allergies can kick in when it's extremely hot.
"I do react a little bit different than other players," he said. "I do have some respiratory problems, depending on the conditions I play in. But you know, you've got to try to overcome that. I'm not the only player who has issues out there."
Djokovic won the only break point in the first set, then had a lapse that allowed Troicki — only 3-21 career against Top 10 opponents — to hang with him during the second set.
"It was a very ugly set with a lot of unforced errors on both sides," Djokovic said.
The cooler-than-usual conditions also may play to Andy Roddick's favor. The top-ranked American pulled out of the Toronto tournament last week because he was feeling sluggish. A blood test indicated he was getting over a mild case of mononucleosis.
Roddick had to go three sets to win his opening match against Sergiy Stakhovsky on Monday night. He was scheduled to play later Wednesday afternoon, his second match in three days.