- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2012

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal has a new injury — a tendon problem in his right knee that nearly forced him to forfeit a first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday that he won handily.

Roger Federer, defending champion Kim Clijsters and top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki were also bothered by injuries coming into the year’s first Grand Slam event, but all advanced in more routine fashion and appeared to be over their ailments.

That wasn’t the case with Nadal. Bothered by a left shoulder injury late last year, the Spaniard’s right knee was heavily taped during his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Alex Kuznetsov.

“I was sitting on a chair in the hotel, I felt like a crack on the knee … really strange,” Nadal said. “I stand up. I felt the knee a little bit strange. I moved the leg like this two times to try to find the feeling. After the second time, the knee stays with an unbelievable pain completely straight. I have no movement on the knee.”

He wasn’t completely sure he could play but decided to do so after an MRI exam showed no major damage. although he still had concerns.

“I started with a little bit of a scare at the beginning, and nervous because I was really disappointed yesterday,” he said. “But after the first 10 games … I started to play with normal conditions.

Nadal added that he doesn’t quite understand what happened, but “I am really happy that today I was ready to play and I played a fantastic match.”

Federer, who pulled out of a tournament in Doha two weeks ago because of a sore back, began his bid for his 17th Grand Slam title — and first since the 2010 Australian Open — with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev. It was the 60th win at the Australian Open for Federer, who also has 60-plus wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The third-seeded Swiss took the first two sets and was up a break in the third before the Russian rallied with a break of serve in the fifth game of the final set. Federer, however, broke Kudryavtsev in the next game with a backhand cross-court winner and sealed the match when the Russian hit a forehand wide.

“No problem,” Federer said. “I am happy to be 100 percent fit.”

Just as quickly, he batted away speculation about a possibly divisive issue with Nadal. Nadal was critical of Federer on Sunday for not speaking out publicly in support of players who are pushing the ATP for changes in scheduling and prize money.

“Things are fine between us, you know. I have no hard feelings towards him,” Federer said. “It’s been a difficult last few months in terms of politics within the ATP.”

Nadal has “mentioned many times how he gets a bit tired and frustrated through the whole process, and I shared that with him. It’s normal. But, for me, obviously nothing changes in terms of our relationship. I’m completely cool and relaxed about it.”

Clijsters opened with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Portuguese qualifier Maria Joao Koehler, showing no signs of the hip spasms that forced her to withdraw from a tuneup event in Brisbane 10 day ago.

Wozniacki, who injured her left wrist in a quarterfinal loss at the Sydney International, cruised past Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-1 in the last match of the evening on Rod Laver Arena.

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