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Aus Open PICS: Serena, Thiem, Zverev move into second round

Last updated on: February 08, 2021 19:37 IST
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Images from Day 1 at the Australian Open.

Serena Williams

IMAGE: Serena Williams celebrates winning her first round match against Germany's Laura Siegemund at the Australian Open on Monday. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Serena Williams took the first step on what she hopes will be the path to a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title in some style on Monday with a 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Germany's Laura Siegemund at the Australian Open.

 

The 39-year-old American, who had never failed to get through the first round in 19 previous visits to Melbourne Park, made a faltering start with a double fault on the first point and gave up her serve in the first game.

Williams lost just one more game over the one-hour contest, however, overpowering her hapless opponent with thumping serves and howitzer forehands in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd of unmasked fans on Rod Laver Arena.

Next up for the seven-times Australian Open champion in her quest to match Australian Margaret Court's record tally of Grand Slam titles is a second round tie against Serbian Nina Stojanovic.

Thiem eases into second round

Austria's Dominic Thiem reacts during his first round match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin

IMAGE: Austria's Dominic Thiem reacts during his first round match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Dominic Thiem overcame an early wobble before overpowering Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-3 to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Monday.

Third seed Thiem was broken twice in the first set and had to fight off a set point at 6-5 before rallying to take the tiebreak at Rod Laver Arena.

The Austrian, beaten in a five-set final by Novak Djokovic last year, found his rhythm and ended up racing to the finish, breaking Kukushkin to love to seal the match.

US Open champion Thiem will meet the winner of Dominik Koepfer and Hugo Dellien for a place in the third round.

Zverev overcomes inconsistency to advance in Melbourne

Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates winning his first round match against American Marcos Giron. 

IMAGE: Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates winning his first round match against American Marcos Giron. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Sixth seed Alexander Zverev overcame an inconsistent start to battle past unheralded American Marcos Giron 6-7 (8), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2 in the opening round of the Australian Open on Monday and keep his hopes of winning his first Grand Slam title alive.

After losing a first-set tiebreak, Zverev went up an early service break in the second. Zverev was serving for the set but Giron broke him to make it 5-4, prompting the German player to smash his racket in frustration and pick up code violation.

Zverev clung on to win the second set in a tiebreak and level the match, and got another early service break in the third set to put himself in control, with his serve finally firing.

The German advanced to the second round without offering world number 75 Giron a break point opportunity in the final two sets, sealing victory with a trademark backhand down the line.

Dominant Halep moves into second round at a canter

Simona Halep celebrates after her first round win.

IMAGE: Simona Halep celebrates after her first round win against Australia's Lizette Cabrera. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Simona Halep skipped briskly into the second round of the Australian Open with a business-like 6-2, 6-1 demolition of local wildcard Lizette Cabrera on Monday.

The second-seeded Romanian looked in fine form as she moved her opponent around the Rod Laver Arena court apparently at will and seized her break-point opportunities with alacrity.

Cabrera, who has never won a match at her home Grand Slam in four attempts, initially froze on her country's most prestigious tennis arena and found her best game only when the result was all but certain.

Halep, a semi-finalist last year and finalist in 2018, wrapped up the contest inside an hour with a sixth break of serve and moved on to face another Australian in Ajla Tomljanovic.

Osaka sails into second round with Russian demolition

Naomi Osaka

IMAGE: Japan's Naomi Osaka proved too strong for Russian veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Naomi Osaka made a stunning start in the Australian Open on Monday by demolishing triple quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round.

Russian veteran Pavlyuchenkova was seen as a potential banana skin for Osaka but was reduced to roadkill as the Japanese third seed steamrolled her in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka pulled out of the semi-final of the Gippsland Trophy with a shoulder niggle but betrayed no sign of injury to the smattering of spectators in the centre court terraces.

Osaka next faces the winner of Caroline Garcia and Polona Hercog for a place in the third round.

Former champion Kerber rues hard quarantine after early exit

Germany's Angelique Kerber in action during her match against American Bernada Pera

IMAGE: Germany's Angelique Kerber in action during her match against American Bernada Pera. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

Former champion Angelique Kerber made an early exit from the Australian Open on Monday and said spending two weeks in hard quarantine ahead of the Grand Slam had contributed to her first-round loss.

She was ousted by American Bernarda Pera was 6-0, 6-4 in little more than an hour on the first morning of the tournament.

Canadian Andreescu toils to win in first match in 15 months

Canada's Bianca Andreescu in action during her first round match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu

IMAGE: Canada's Bianca Andreescu in action during her first round match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu. Photograph: Jaimi Joy/Reuters

Canadian eighth seed Bianca Andreescu was made to work hard on her return to competition after 15 months, the 2019 US Open winner digging deep to see off Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the Australian Open first round on Monday.

The 20-year-old, playing her first match since retiring from the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen with a knee injury, moved assuredly on court and showed no signs of discomfort against the world number 138.

Despite going through 14 days of hard quarantine after arriving in Australia, Andreescu breezed through the opening set with two breaks of serve.

However, Buzarnescu, 32, raised her game in the second set and levelled the match as the Andreescu's unforced error count began to creep up.

Down 0-40 and facing a break at 3-3 in the decider, Andreescu managed to find a different gear to hold serve and then won the next two games to seal victory.

She faces a second-round matchup against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei, who earlier beat US Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 7-5, 6-2.

Shapovalov survives Sinner in epic battle to advance in Melbourne

Denis Shapovalov

IMAGE: Canada's Denis Shapovalov in action during his first round match against Italy's Jannik Sinner. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

Canadian 11th seed Denis Shapovalov outlasted Italian Jannik Sinner 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6 6-4 in an enthralling battle of 'Next Gen' stars to move into the second round of the Australian Open.

In the final clash on Margaret Court Arena on the opening day of the Grand Slam, the 21-year-old Shapovalov and Sinner, 19, put on a masterclass of clean hitting and athleticism in a first career meeting between them.

"Today was just incredible tennis from both of us," Shapovalov told reporters.

"Honestly, I think Jannik is super talented. He's such an amazing player, he's a great guy, great worker. I'm sure he's going to be a very, very tough opponent in the future... I'm a really big fan of his game and how he is."

In an evenly-contested match with hardly anything to choose between the two youngsters, Sinner, who on Sunday became the youngest to win two ATP titles since Novak Djokovic in 2006, made a fast start to jump to a 3-0 lead before taking the set.

Against Sinner's immaculate hitting and robust court coverage, Shapovalov needed to raise his game and the world number 12 managed to find an extra gear and some more power behind his shots to take the next two sets.

Having played both singles and doubles almost everyday in the tuneup event the past week, Sinner's legs seemed to have run out of juice when he fell back 3-1 in the fourth set.

But the 32nd-ranked Italian found the energy to stage a fightback and level the contest at 2-2.

Before the deciding set, Shapovalov had a lengthy argument with the chair umpire after being denied a toilet break. He then received some medical attention for a shoulder niggle and returned to the court to break Sinner in the opening game.

Sinner, who used his 14-day isolation in Adelaide ahead of the Grand Slam as Rafael Nadal's hitting partner, spent whatever he had in his tank and had two opportunities to get the break back in the decider but failed to convert them.

"There's not that much difference between him and me," Sinner said, choosing his sessions against the 20-times Grand Slam singles winner as the highlight of his trip to Australia.

"He played better today during certain points, he deserved to win. It's mentally tough losing in the fifth, but it's going to be a lesson, as well."

After almost four hours, Shapovalov sealed the contest at almost 1 am in the morning with a forehand winner down the line on his second match point to set up a second-round meeting against Australian Bernard Tomic.

"Matches like this is so much fun for me to play, this is why I play the sport," Shapovalov said in his on-court interview.

"Win or lose today, it's one of the matches that I'm going to remember in my career just because ... the moment, the quality of tennis today, it was just so much fun to be out here."

Nishikori's 'high-level' not enough to stop first-round exit

Japan's Kei Nishikori reckons he played some of his best tennis since returning from injury last year but it still was not enough to stop him from suffering a first-round exit at the Australian Open on Monday.

The former world number four, a four-time quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, bowed out 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to Spanish 15th seed Pablo Carreno-Busta.

"Well, tough because I thought I was playing well but Carreno was playing better today," Nishikori told reporters.

"I thought I was playing pretty high level. For me, I played, I think, one of the best tennis so far, including last year after coming back."

Nishikori was the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final when he finished runner-up at the 2014 US Open but he has struggled for consistency during an injury-plagued career.

He spent 10 months on the sidelines after undergoing elbow surgery and was slated to return at the 2020 US Open but pulled out after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

Nishikori played some matches after returning in Austria in September but his season was again cut short by a shoulder injury he suffered during a five-set loss to Italian Stefano Travaglia at the French Open.

"I was kind of happy the way I'm playing with this level, but still not enough to beat this guy," Nishikori, who has slipped down to 42 in the ATP rankings, rued.

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