Defending champion Nadal cruises to win in Japan opener

    World number two Rafael Nadal is searching for his 47th ATP Tour title.

    Story highlights

    • Defending champion Rafael Nadal eases into the second round of the Japan Open
    • Jo-Wiflried Tsonga into second round of the China Open after beating Grigor Dimitrov
    • In the women's draw, Sam Stosur suffers a second successive defeat to Maria Kirilenko
    • Serena Williams will return to U.S. Fed Cup team in February's clash with Belarus
    Rafael Nadal made a strong start to the defense of his Japan Open crown on Tuesday, defeating wildcard entrant Go Soeda 6-3 6-2.
    The world No. 2, who is seeking his 47th tournament title, broke his Japanese opponent's serve on four occasions to emerge victorious from the first-round clash in 91 minutes.
    It was his first ATP Tour appearance since losing in the U.S. Open final in September, though he helped Spain reach the Davis Cup final with two victories against France the week after that defeat.
    "I think I played a good match, better than I thought ahead of the match," Nadal, whose record of 62 wins and 11 defeats in 2011 is second only to world number one Novak Djokovic, told the ATP's official website.
    "My serve was better than I thought because ahead of the tournament it was so-so. For me, the balls were a little heavy so I found it tricky to hit my forehand topspin. My next match against Raonic will be really tough."
    The 10-time grand slam winner will next face Canada's Milos Raonic, who defeated Soeda's fellow Japanese wildcard Yuichi Sugita 6-7 (7-4) 6-3 7-6 (7-1).
    It was only Raonic's second match since being eliminated from the second round of Wimbledon in June after suffering with a right hip injury.
    "It felt really good," the 20-year-old said. "I'm happy to be back after a difficult summer with rehabilitation. To be back on a tennis court playing matches is an amazing feeling.
    "I'm really happy I found a way to win today. It was tough and I hope I can just keep getting better and better by the day."
    Third seed and 2007 champion David Ferrer dispatched of Japan's top player Kei Nishikori, completing a 6-4 6-3 triumph in 89 minutes.
    Latvian Ernests Gulbis set up a clash with top-ranked American Mardy Fish by overcoming Poland's Lukasz Kubot 6-3 3-6 7-5.
    David Nalbandian continued his comeback from double surgery on his right knee by beating the Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol.
    The 2002 Wimbledon finalist was in fine form, forcing 17 breaks point opportunities and completing the 6-1 6-1 win in just 49 minutes.
    Meanwhile, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga maintained his push for a place at the season-ending ATP Tour World Finals by battling past Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov at the China Open in Beijing.
    Top seed Tsonga, ranked seventh in the world, converted two of his four break-points to eventually seal a 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 success and set up a second-round contest with Chinese wildcard Ze Zhang.
    "For me it was difficult to play Grigor because he's a really good player," the 26-year-old said.
    "For the first round, it was not easy. Today for me I didn't move really well, I didn't hit the ball really good, but I was on the court with my head and I did it. So I'm really happy to go through this one."
    Czech Tomas Berdych holds the eighth and final place at the Tour Finals in London, and the third seed earned a straight-sets 7-5 7-5 victory over Austrian Jurgen Melzer.
    Berdych, 26, will face Phillip Kohlschreiber in the next round after the German beat Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-3 7-6 (7-0).
    Robredo's fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro is still in contention for the finals in November, but the world No. 11 suffered a 6-3 6-2 defeat to Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
    In the women's draw, U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur suffered a second successive defeat to Maria Kirilenko.
    Australia's Stosur beat the Russian on her way to a first-career grand slam title at Flushing Meadows in September, but Kirilenko followed up her win over the 27-year-old in Toyko last week with a 7-5 1-6 7-5 victory on Tuesday.
    "At the U.S. Open I won," Stosur told the WTA's official website of her clashes with Kirilenko. "Last week I lost to her 6-4 in the third and this week 7-5 in the third. There's not a lot in it. It's all about those crucial times."
    Stosur was the third 2011 grand slam champion to exit the tournament in the first round, following Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and China's French Open titleholder Li Na.
    In other tennis news, former world No. 1 Serena Williams will return to the United States team in February's Fed Cup World Group II playoff clash with Belarus.
    Williams, who was fined after her petulant outburst in losing the U.S. Open final last month, last played for her country in 2007.