Images from Day 1 of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Nadal grinds down injured Draper
Defending champion Rafael Nadal dropped a set but prevailed in a battle of fitness against Jack Draper to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Monday with an unconvincing 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 over the injured Briton.
Fellow left-hander Draper played superb tennis to level the match at a set all but the 21-year-old soon developed leg troubles and was left groaning in pain as Nadal closed out the match on a warm and sunny afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal was broken first game of the final set when Draper punished a dubious attempted drop-shot with a winner but the Spaniard won the next six games in succession to claim the match as the ailing Briton bowed out swinging.
Nadal, bidding for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, will next face Mackenzie McDonald for a place in the third round.
Azarenka prevails over Kenin in battle of former champions
Victoria Azarenka confessed to some nerves before coming through a tough first-round battle against Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6(3) on Monday to ensure she would be the only former Australian Open champion remaining in the women's draw.
The 33-year-old Belarusian, champion in 2012 and 2013, said she had been concerned at playing Kenin even if the American had suffered an appalling run of injuries since she won her first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park in 2020.
"She's an amazing champion, I know she's had some injuries but she has the experience and I knew it was going to be a tough match," the 24th seed said after the two-hour struggle.
"I also thought she was coming in with nothing to lose so I knew she was going to play well, play freely. First matches, especially in the first Grand Slam of the year, are never easy and I was very nervous before my match today.
"I couldn't find my best tennis today so I was just trying to fight step-by-step so I was able to find a way. Today was about that."
Kenin will perhaps have been encouraged by her fighting display on Margaret Court Arena after three years blighted by injuries, illness and off-court issues.
The 24-year-old took a 3-0 lead in the opening set after an early break only for Azarenka to notch up the power and rattle off five successive games. Kenin fought gamely to hold serve for 5-4 but Azarenka made no mistake when serving for the set.
The second set was much tighter with the key moment coming in the tiebreak when Azarenka boomed down her fifth ace and Kenin responded lamely with a double fault.
Azarenka, who will next meet lucky loser Leolia Jeanjean or Nadia Podoroska at her 15th Australian Open, said her pre-match nerves were a testament to how much it meant to her to be playing at Grand Slams.
"We work hard every day," she said. "The off season is full of blood, sweat and tears so we can go out there and do our best. It's high pressure so I still feel nervous."
In-form Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff wasted little time in racing into the second round of the Australian Open on the opening day, briskly swatting aside their opponents in bright sunshine on Monday.
Pegula, seeded third behind Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur, hit her stride early in the new season by helping the United States win the inaugural United Cup and took less than an hour to see off Jaqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1.
The 28-year-old simply overpowered her Romanian opponent and there were loud cheers from the Margaret Court Arena crowd when Cristian held serve in the second set to avoid the dreaded 'double bagel'.
"It definitely gives me a lot of confidence winning matches like that, knowing I'm playing really focused every single point and not letting any kind of points or games go to waste," said Pegula.
"Definitely first matches are always really tough, especially at a slam, there's so much hype and anxious nerves leading up. So I'm glad it just went very smooth."
Danielle Collins, runner up to Ash Barty at Melbourne Park last year, had an injury timeout for a knee issue before grinding out a 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win over Anna Kalinskaya.
"Any time you're on the court playing three-hour matches, you especially want to win, so I just needed to push through the hurdle a little bit," the 13th seeded American said.
"Definitely had a scare there with the injury in the first set but I was able to work through it. I'm just counting my lucky stars there a bit, it really was not a good start for me."
Amanda Anisimova was unable to continue the good start for American women at the first Grand Slam since Serena Williams hung up her racket, the 28th seed tumbling out 6-3, 6-4 at the hands of Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk.
With Barty and Williams both retired, and twice champion Naomi Osaka pregnant with her first child, Melbourne Park will almost certainly crown a first-time women's champion this year.
There were convincing early wins on Monday for two former US Open champions who have been unable to build on their Grand Slam success.
Canadian Bianca Andreescu, the 2020 champion at Flushing Meadows, beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2 6-4, while 2021 winner Emma Raducanu made light work of Tamara Korpatsch in a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Briton Raducanu, now 20, will next face teenager Gauff, who came into the year's first Grand Slam on the back of a title win in Auckland and confirmed her good form with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Katerina Siniakova on Rod Laver Arena.
Greek sixth seed Maria Sakkari also had a straightforward 6-1, 6-4 win over China's Yuan Yue to set up a tie against Russian qualifier Diana Shnaider.
Italian 15th seed Jannik Sinner, a quarter-finalist last year, was the first man to reach the second round, rolling over Briton Kyle Edmund 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 on John Cain Arena.
Polish 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz joined him with a 7-1(1), 6-2, 6-2 win over Spain's Pedro Martinez.
Top seeds Swiatek and Rafael Nadal open their campaigns in the evening session at Melbourne Park.