Tennis: Fourth seed Ferrer cruises into second round of Australian Open

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Spain's fourth seed David Ferrer, coming off a career-best tennis season, eased past Belgian Olivier Rochus into the second round at the Australian Open on Monday.

Ferrer, elevated to the No. 4 seeding following the withdrawal of last year's finalist Rafael Nadal, had few problems putting away the 126th-ranked Belgian, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in 1hr 50min on Hisense Arena.

The super-fit Spaniard will now take on American Tim Smyczek in the second round.

The consistent Ferrer, who lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in last year's quarter-finals and reached the semi-finals in 2011, led last year's ATP Tour with seven titles in eight finals to finish the year at No. 5.

He chalked up an early title this year with a fourth ATP Auckland crown in beating German Philipp Kohlschreiber last weekend.

Ferrer broke the Belgian's serve six times and dropped service twice, hitting 30 winners with 17 unforced errors in a strong all-court performance.

It was the Spaniard's eighth win over Rochus in 10 meetings and he has played at every Grand Slam event since making his debut at the 2003 Australian Open.