WIMBLEDON, England — Trying to switch directions while chasing a shot beneath the Royal Box at Wimbledon's Centre Court, Rafael Nadal lost his footing and took a nasty-looking spill, flinging his racket in the air while he fell.
The Spaniard was okay, even if he did land on his back behind the baseline and glanced overhead to make sure his equipment wasn't going to nail him in the noggin. Nadal toweled off and, four games later, wrapped up a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori in the first round at the All England Club.
It was merely a coincidence, of course, that Nadal's third-set tumble Tuesday left him in nearly the same position, and in the same spot, that he found himself the last time he played a match at Wimbledon, almost two full years ago. Except on that occasion, he was dropping to the grass to celebrate beating Roger Federer in the 2008 final.
Nadal didn't defend that championship, withdrawing last year because of tendinitis in his knees. Now he's healthy, reinstated at No. 1 in the rankings, once again the reigning French Open champion — and back on what he called "probably the most beautiful and emblematic court in the world."
Another past Wimbledon winner coming off an injury, Maria Sharapova, played Tuesday, and also won convincingly, eliminating 127th-ranked Anastasia Pivovarova 6-1, 6-0 in only 54 minutes.
Sharapova had right shoulder surgery in October 2008 and was sidelined for about 10 months, then was hampered by a right elbow injury this season. She has had to toy with her service motion.
"You never know until things happen. I mean, I believed that I would be back. Did I really know? I assumed, and I had a lot of belief in myself, and I had a tremendous amount of support from the people around me," said Sharapova, who won 30 of 37 points on her serve Tuesday. "But you never really know till it happens."
Joining her in the second round were defending champion Serena Williams, who pounded 15 aces in a 6-0, 6-4 victory over 17-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito to improve to 43-0 in first-round Grand Slam matches; two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who overcame 16 aces by Akgul Amanmuradova and won 6-2, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4; and No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 7 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 9 Li Na and No. 10 Flavia Pennetta.
But No. 6 Samantha Stosur, part-time Tampa resident and runnerup at the French Open a little more than two weeks ago, lost to 80th-ranked qualifier Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-4.
Former top-five player James Blake, returning from a three-month layoff because of a right knee injury, lost to Robin Haase 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
"It's almost embarrassing to go out and play a Grand Slam match like that," said the 109th-ranked Blake, a Tampa resident.
He went 0 for 9 on break-point chances and made more than twice as many unforced errors as Haase, 23-10.
Blake, 30, began having problems with his knee more than a year ago.
"The knee is not great," Blake said. "If it doesn't get better soon, I'm not sure how much longer I want to play in pain."