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Aus Open PICS: Nadal, Barty power ahead; Azarenka stunned

Last updated on: February 10, 2021 00:08 IST
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Images from the action on Day 2 at the Australian Open.

Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his first round match against Serbia's Laslo Djere

IMAGE: Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his first round match against Serbia's Laslo Djere. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

Rafael Nadal defied his gloomy injury prognosis to crush Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 and reach the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The Spanish great was not quite at his all-action, fist-pumping best but appeared unimpeded by his back problems as he posted an encouraging win over the 56th ranked Serb in the afternoon sunshine at Rod Laver Arena.

After closing out a tight second set, the second seed played like a man unburdened, racing to the finish line in a hail of winners before Djere conceded the match meekly with a double fault.

 

Nadal will meet the winner of two qualifiers -- American Michael Mmoh or Viktor Troicki -- for a place in the third round.

Barty doles out 'double bagel' in opener

Australia's Ashleigh Barty celebrates winning her first round match against Montenegro's Danka Kovinic

IMAGE: Australia's Ashleigh Barty celebrates winning her first round match against Montenegro's Danka Kovinic. Photograph: Loren Elliott

World number one Ash Barty doled out the dreaded 'double bagel' to Danka Kovinic in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, humiliating the error-prone Montenegrin 6-0, 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena.

Barty, looking to become the first homegrown champion at the Grand Slam since 1978, won the first 16 points of the one-sided contest and never looked back, wrapping up the win in 44 minutes.

"This is what it's all about, this is incredible," the Australian said to cheers from the crowd.

"It's impossible not to enjoy a night session on this beautiful court."

Next up for Barty is a second-round match against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo or local wildcard Daria Gavrilova.

Tsitsipas canters into second round

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in action during his first round match against France's Gilles Simon

IMAGE: Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in action during his first round match against France's Gilles Simon. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas served up a tennis masterclass to veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon during a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 thrashing to open his Australian Open campaign on Tuesday.

The 2019 Melbourne Park semi-finalist barely broke sweat during the final match on Rod Laver Arena and did not face a break point against the 36-year-old Simon, who is ranked 66th in the world.

In his first meeting with the former world number six, Tsitsipas broke Simon's serve twice in the first two sets and a further three times to ease into the second round.

"I don't know what to say. I obviously wasn't expecting it to come so easy," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview.

"I was surprised.

"It was a great match from my side. I think I played a spectacular match from the beginning to the end."

The Greek will next meet Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis, who breezed past Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

Russians Medvedev, Rublev advance

Russia's Daniil Medvedev in action during his first round match against Canada's Vasek Pospisil

IMAGE: Russia's Daniil Medvedev in action during his first round match against Canada's Vasek Pospisil. Photograph: Jaimi Joy

Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, battle-hardened after firing Russia to an ATP Cup triumph at Melbourne Park last week, both cruised into the second round of the Australian Open in straight sets on Tuesday.

Seventh seed Rublev opened the day's action on John Cain Arena with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Yannick Hanfmann before Medvedev, the fourth seed, dispensed with Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to extend his winning streak to 15 matches.

Medvedev won the ATP Finals after beating Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem last November and continued his impressive form at the ATP Cup last week as Russia went unbeaten through the team event.

The 24-year-old raced through the first two sets against Pospisil on Margaret Court Arena but his Canadian opponent, who was one of 72 players confined strictly to their rooms during pre-tournament quarantine, proved more obdurate in the third.

It only delayed the inevitable, however, and Medvedev eased into a second round meeting with Roberto Carballes Baena or Attila Balazs after an hour and 47 minutes.

"To be honest, it was good not to lose any matches (at the ATP Cup) but on the other hand, we played on Sunday and had a lot of matches against tough opponents," said Medvedev.

"So I'm really happy that I finished fast today."

Russia's Andrey Rublev celebrates after winning his first round match against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann 

IMAGE: Russia's Andrey Rublev celebrates after winning his first round match against Germany's Yannick Hanfmann. Photograph: Kelly Defina

Rublev, who took five minutes fewer to lock up his second-round tie against Thiago Monteiro, said playing for a week at Melbourne Park already had helped ease his transition into the Australian Open.

"I was a bit nervous because it's first match of Grand Slam of the year, so I started a bit tight (but) in the middle of the set I was already controlling the match," said the 23-year-old.

"Because of the ATP Cup, I adapted to the courts really fast, so I'm already here feeling good."

If the seedings hold, the erstwhile ATP Cup team mates will face off in the quarter-finals as they vie to give Russia its first men's singles champion at the Australian Open since Marat Safin in 2005.

Former champion Azarenka stunned by Pegula 

Jessica Pegula celebrates winning a point during her women's singles first round match against Belarus's Victoria Azarenka

IMAGE: Jessica Pegula of the United States celebrates winning a point during her women's singles first round match against Belarus's Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday, Day 2 of the Australian Open, at Melbourne Park. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Victoria Azarenka was dumped out of the Australian Open in the first round on Tuesday after a 7-5, 6-4 defeat by main draw debutant Jessica Pegula.

Belarusian Azarenka, who won her two Grand Slam titles in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013, started the stronger and looked to be in complete control, the 12th seed racing to a 5-2 lead in the first set.

However, things quickly fell apart as American Pegula, the world number 61, took the next five games to seal the set.

Azarenka's troubles continued in the second set and she took a medical timeout while trailing 4-2 after appearing to have trouble breathing.

She returned to hold serve and followed that up with a break to draw level at 4-4, but Pegula broke straight back before serving out the match, sealing victory with an ace.

Emotional Kenin grinds into second round

Sofia Kenin of the United States plays a forehand in her first round match against Australia's Maddison Inglis

IMAGE: Sofia Kenin of the United States plays a forehand in her first round match against Australia's Maddison Inglis. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

An anxious Sofia Kenin was in tears before launching her title defence at the Australian Open on Tuesday and again after completing an unconvincing 7-5, 6-4 win over local wildcard Maddison Inglis.

Fourth seed Kenin, who claimed her maiden Grand Slam at Melbourne Park last year in a major surprise, found the going tough against the world number 133 Australian on a glorious morning at Rod Laver Arena.

The Russia-born American was broken twice in the first set and slumped to an early 3-1 deficit before recovering. She later double-faulted on match-point before closing it out.

Kenin has always worn her heart on her sleeve and was candid about her emotions, saying she needed to get a grip of them if she hoped to go far in her title defence.

"Yeah, emotions, some tears and stuff. I felt a little bit (of) pressure," the 22-year-old said of her lead-in to the match.

"Obviously I was nervous ... I obviously am tight. I wasn't there 100% mentally."

Kenin said that while she gets nervous before all of her matches, the anxiety level was cranked up in Melbourne as she bids to defend her title.

"I have to try to put my emotions aside for a match," she added.

"I have to somehow get better at that if I want to do well here."

Even after thumping down a backhand drive-volley to seal the win on a third match point, Kenin said she had to stop herself from weeping on court.

"Eyes were a little bit wet during the match," she said.

"I try to cool off, put that aside ... As the match went, luckily it was fine. Towards the end, you could see I got a little bit emotional as well.

"Standing at the net, 'Okay, don't cry'. My eyes were wet, obviously."

She will next play Estonia's Kaia Kanepi, who beat her in three sets in Rome in 2018, their only career meeting.

Just seeing that Kanepi was winning her first round match against Anastasija Sevastova was enough to tug at Kenin's emotions again.

"After my match, I came off court, and I looked that she was winning," she said.

"Maybe (I) kind of broke down a little bit because obviously I remember I lost to her." 

Winning teen Gauff feeling at home on the 'People's Court'

Cori Coco Gauff of the US returns during her first round match against Switzerland's Jil Teichmann

IMAGE: Cori Coco Gauff of the US returns during her first round match against Switzerland's Jil Teichmann. Photograph: Kelly Defina/Reuters

American teenager Coco Gauff said she felt right at home among her spectator contemporaries on the John Cain Arena court on Tuesday as she knocked out Jil Teichmann 6-3, 6-2 to glide into the second round of the Australian Open.

The recently renamed showcourt at Melbourne Park is sometimes called the "People's Court" as cheaper ticket prices make it accessible to a younger demographic, which can also make for a rowdier atmosphere.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, crowd numbers were again low on Tuesday but there were still enough youthful fans on hand to give the American a rousing cheer after a routine victory over her Swiss rival.

"I think this is my favourite court to play on," Gauff, the youngest player in the main draw, said on court.

"I was told that this arena has a lot of younger people. I'm 16, so it's good to see some people in the crowd that's around my age, they tend to be a little bit louder so that's why I like it."

The teenager will next play Elina Svitolina, and the Ukrainian fifth seed will be well aware that Gauff stunned Venus Williams, Sorana Cirstea and Naomi Osaka in her first Australian Open campaign last year.

"I'm going to go out there and have fun and compete," Gauff said.

"She's a great player and I know it's going to be a tough match, but I'm just going to embrace the opportunity and try to play well under the pressure."

Crowds at Melbourne Park have been restricted to 30,000 each day this year because of biosecurity protocols, but that capacity looks unlikely to be reached over the first two days.

The three-week delay to the tournament also means that many younger fans who might have wanted to cheer on Gauff are now back at school after their January vacations.

"I know the stands aren't as full because of the situation that is going on in the world but I'm happy that you guys came out to watch me play - so thanks!" Gauff added.

Sandgren says 'joke' preparation behind first-round exit

American Tennys Sandgren in action during his first round match against Australia's Alex de Minaur

IMAGE: American Tennys Sandgren in action during his first round match against Australia's Alex de Minaur. Photograph: Kelly Defina/Reuters

A frustrated Tennys Sandgren said his preparation for the Australian Open was a "joke" and that undergoing hard quarantine in the leadup gave him no chance against Alex De Minaur as he crashed out of the first round in three sets on Tuesday.

Former quarter-finalist Sandgren was among the 72 players unable to train during their 14-day quarantine before the Grand Slam because they were deemed close contacts to people who tested positive for COVID-19 on their flights into Australia.

Other players were able to train for up to five hours a day, including Australian De Minaur, who romped to a 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 win over the American.

"How would you imagine prepping for a hot kind of muggy day, three-out-of-five sets against a player like that, that calibre, when you can't play tennis?" Sandgren told reporters.

"I mean, it's just kind of a joke of preparation. What are you going to do?"

"I lost my calluses, so my hands were blistering playing an hour of tennis today in humid conditions. Like, stupid."

It was an eventful month for Sandgren, who was granted special permission to board a chartered flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne despite testing positive for the new coronavirus earlier that week.

Sandgren said on social media he had tested positive in November, and the later positive result was then reclassified as "viral shedding" from a historical infection.

Sandgren also caused a stir on social media during his match against De Minaur as he stepped forward to hammer a shot into the Australian's body when he might have pushed an easy winner into an open court.

"That's just frustration from Sandgren, taking it out," four-times Grand Slam champion Jim Courier said in commentary for Channel Nine.

"I'm not sure Alex would have seen the humour in that one."

Former women's champion Angelique Kerber and Spain's Paula Badosa, the only player to test positive for COVID-19, also blamed inadequate preparations for their first round exits.

"I don't know, I wouldn't say the whole tournament is a joke, but for some players it's not feasible," said Sandgren.

"It's just not feasible."

Britain's Konta retires due to injury

Briton Johanna Konta retired from her Australian Open first-round match against Kaja Juvan of Slovenia on Tuesday due to injury while leading 6-4, 0-2.

Konta, seeded 13th at Melbourne Park, left the court for a medical timeout to get treatment on her abdomen when serving at 5-4 in the opening set.

She came back to serve out the set but continued to struggle and lost the first two games of the second set before deciding she was unable to continue.

Djokovic serves up masterclass on favourite court

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his first round match against France's Jeremy Chardy at the Australian Open

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his first round match against France's Jeremy Chardy. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Novak Djokovic got back to doing what he does best on Monday when he steamrollered Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in his opening round match on Monday.

Having come through two weeks of quarantine in Adelaide, and a brief but damaging spat with his hosts about the strict isolation conditions placed on competitors in Melbourne, the world number one let his tennis do the talking as he eased to a 297th Grand Slam victory.

Djokovic has won eight of his 17 major titles on Melbourne Park’s main showcourt and, even with a smaller crowd than usual, the Serbian looked very much at home on the distinctive blue surface.

“There’s an ongoing love affair with me and this court,” he said to cheers from the fans.

“I’ve been lucky to have so much success on this court and hopefully it will continue for many years. It makes my heart full to see so many people in the stadium. This is the most people I’ve seen on a tennis court in 12 months. Thank you.”

Jeremy Chardy in action during his first round match against Novak Djokovic.

IMAGE: Jeremy Chardy in action during his first round match against Novak Djokovic. Photograph: Kelly Defina/Reuters

Chardy had never taken a set off his opponent in 13 previous matches and with Djokovic landing three quarters of his first serves, the Frenchman was unable to muster a single break point.

With Djokovic finding the corners with his ranging strokes to rattle up 41 winners, Chardy’s small victories were the occasions when he battled back to hold his serve.

Djokovic brought a definitive end to the one-sided contest with back-to-back aces after 91 minutes and will next play American world number 64 Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

The Serbian said he felt he played a “flawless” match.

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