Wimbledon 2011: Rafael Nadal beats Michael Russell in opener

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Nadal stretched by brave Russell

Top seed Rafael Nadal began the defence of his Wimbledon title with a straight-sets win over American Michael Russell.

The Spaniard took the honour of opening play on Centre Court as the defending champion, and needed one hour and 58 minutes to come through 6-4 6-2 6-2.

Nadal has now won 15 consecutive matches at the All England Club, his last defeat coming against Roger Federer in the 2007 final.

The world number one goes on to face American Ryan Sweeting in round two.

"Fantastic," was how Nadal described the experience of opening play on Centre Court, after he was denied the opportunity in 2009 because of injury.

"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."

As the anticipated rain stayed away, play began with the Centre Court open to the elements and it was the 33-year-old Russell who made the early running.

A fine lob and a sharp volley set up break point for the American in game six, and Nadal then double-faulted to fall 4-2 behind.

Russell, ranked 90th in the world, had won just once in four previous visits to Wimbledon, and there was barely enough time for spectators to take on board his surprise lead before Nadal had come storming back into the match.

The Spaniard took control of proceedings with his forehand and, despite gamely running down everything possible, Russell could do little to stop six games in a row passing him by.

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When he was left lying face down on the Centre Court turf after succumbing to a Nadal barrage, the second set too was a done deal, Russell managing one break to his opponent's three.

Nadal was totally dominant on serve in the third, breaking for the second time with a rasping forehand for 4-1, and after a successful Hawkeye challenge from Russell on the first match point, the champion duly converted his second.

"I think he started playing very well," said Nadal. "Aggressive, having good returns. I started, in my opinion, trying to play too fast in the beginning probably.

"After that I started to change a little bit more the rhythm with the slice, trying to play a little bit longer points, try to hit the forehand when I had the chance. My level in general I think was very positive."

Nadal was not the only male seed to go through in straight sets.

Last year's runner-up Tomas Berdych, the sixth seed this time around, beat unseeded Filippo Volandri 6-2 6-2 6-1, ninth seed Gail Monfils had a harder time in seeing off Matthias Bachinger 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 while 10th seed Mardy Fish edged past Marcel Granollers 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

There were also victories for 14th seed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-4 6-4 against Potito Starace and 17th seed Richard Gasquet 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7-3) over Santiago Giraldo.

The 31st seed Milos Raonic of Canada served 25 aces in his 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory over Marc Gicquel, who was a late replacement for Fabio Fognini.