Images from Day 1 of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday
Djokovic digs deep to beat Struff in opener
Second seed Novak Djokovic was forced to work hard by unwavering German Jan-Lennard Struff in his first match of the Australian Open on Monday before prevailing 7-6(5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to stay on course for a record-extending eighth title at Melbourne Park.
Defending champion Djokovic got off to a strong start for a 5-2 lead in the opening set but the German world number 37 fought back to level things at 5-5 before going down in a closely-fought tiebreaker.
The second set proved relatively simpler for the winner of 16 Grand Slam singles titles as he converted two breakpoints while showing the same kind of form that helped him lead Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup title before arriving in Melbourne.
Struff continued to persevere, breaking his opponent thrice in the third set, but Djokovic wrested back initiative early in the fourth to set up a second-round meeting against either Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito or lucky loser Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India.
Serena puts aside air quality concerns to clear first hurdle
Serena Williams put aside her concerns about the air quality at Melbourne Park as she breezed into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday to remain on course for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
Buoyed by securing her first WTA title as a mother in Auckland two weeks ago, the 38-year-old American great kept her stay out on Rod Laver Arena to a minimum with a 6-0 6-3 trouncing of Anastasia Potapova in under an hour.
The air quality was officially rated good on Monday but Williams had not forgotten the choking smoke from Australia’s bushfires that greeted her when she arrived in Melbourne earlier this week.
“I definitely was concerned, and am. I think it changes every day,” the eighth seed told reporters.
“There is a lot of factors on how it can change. That is still a concern for pretty much everyone. Every day all the players and the tournament make sure that all the players are updated on what the play conditions would be like.
“It’s literally every day, we are just waiting every day to see how the air quality would be ... Today, it seemed normal. Yeah, it seemed pretty good... It definitely felt like that.
Williams said she was particularly concerned because of the pulmonary embolism she suffered after giving birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017.
“I’m, like, ‘oh no, I’m already playing a little down than most people’,” she added.
“But we’ll see. Just have to focus on what happens and we’ll see what happens.”
The good news for Williams is that the outlook for the rest of tournament is promising, with the rain that has lashed Australia over the last few days helping contain the fires that have killed 29 people and millions of animals.
The rain also stopped play on the outside courts on Monday which means that Williams might have to wait another day to find out whether she plays Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek or South Korean wildcard Han Na-lae in the second round.
Her victory over Russian teenager Potapova to kickstart her 19th campaign at Melbourne Park was no great surprise given she has now lost only once in 74 first-round matches at Grand Slams.
“I felt like I started out really well, played really strong in the first set and just building on that,” she said.
“So, I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now.”
An eighth title at Melbourne Park would bring Williams level with Australian Margaret Court as the most prolific Grand Slam singles winner in the history of the game — a feat she said had been on her mind.
“I think it’s factored a lot into my game, and now it’s just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do,” she said.
“Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion. And now how great is Serena Williams?
“That’s it. That’s kind of what I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks and months. It definitely helps me relax a lot.”
Rust-free Federer launches Melbourne campaign with sublime win
Roger Federer showed no signs of rust from his lack of match practice ahead of the Australian Open as the third seed launched his campaign for a record 21st Grand Slam title by hammering American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.
Playing his first competitive match since losing to Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the ATP Finals in November, the 38-year-old broke his opponent’s serve early in each of the three sets and closed out the match when Johnson hit a return long.
Despite blustery conditions, Federer served superbly from the start and hit winners at will against Johnson, who is ranked 75th in the world, and he was as ruthless under the closed roof at the Rod Laver Arena after play was interrupted by rain.
A six-time champion at Melbourne Park, Federer will take on the winner of the match between French qualifier Quentin Halys and Filip Krajinovic of Serbia in the second round.
Naomi Osaka tested
Defending champion Naomi Osaka overcame a patchy and error-prone performance to advance to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Czech Marie Bouzkova.
The 22-year-old Japanese next faces China’s Zheng Saisai, who needed just 72 minutes to beat Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 6-3, 6-2.
Third seed Osaka struggled in the opening exchanges but broke the 21-year-old Bouzkova twice in the first set, which she clinched with a forehand winner in 36 minutes.
The pair battled with swirling winds on Rod Laver Arena and Bouzkova managed to break in the sixth game of the second set but Osaka, who relied on a big serve and booming ground strokes to get out of trouble, broke back twice again and sealed victory when the Czech sent a backhand wide after 80 minutes.
Tsitsipas blasts past Italy's Caruso in first round
Stefanos Tsitsipas put on a commanding performance in his opening match at the Australian Open on Monday, with a thumping 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 win over Italy's Salvatore Caruso.
Caruso, ranked 95th in the world, looked hopelessly outplayed throughout and his troubles were compounded after a finger on his right hand started bleeding from a cut early in the final set.
Tsitsipas had three match points on Caruso's serve at 5-2 but could not convert any of them. He finally secured victory on his own serve with an ace down the middle of the court after an hour and 45 minutes.
The 21-year-old will next play the winner of the match between Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber and American Marcos Giron.
Gauff bests Venus again in blockbuster rematch
Coco Gauff shone on her Australian Open debut as she knocked Venus Williams out of the first round in a repeat of her stunning victory over the seven-times Grand Slam champion in the Wimbledon opener last year.
The 15-year-old American sensation, 24 years Williams’ junior, eased to a 7-6(5), 6-3 win in the clash of generations at Margaret Court Arena, Gauff’s first main draw appearance as a direct qualifier at a Grand Slam.
After sealing the first set tiebreak when Williams struck an overhead smash into the net, Gauff broke her compatriot twice in the second before serving out the match to love.
Gauff will face Romanian Sorana Cirstea, who earlier beat Barbora Strycova 6-2, 7-6(5), for a place in the third round.
Wozniacki battles 'mixed emotions' in first round win
Caroline Wozniacki battled 'mixed emotions' as she stepped on court at the Australian Open to begin the final tournament of her career but the former world No. 1 kept her composure to deliver a 6-1, 6-3 first-round win over Kristie Ahn.
The Dane’s speedy footwork and trademark defensive skills were on full display as she breezed through the first set in just 24 minutes on Melbourne Arena.
She faced a tougher time in the second set after a marathon first game on Ahn’s serve, which saw the 92nd-ranked American save eight break points before Wozniacki finally prevailed.
She went on to hold the next two games and never seemed in danger of losing even when Ahn managed to claw a break back in the fourth game.
Ahn, facing three match points at 5-3 down, saved one but hit a double fault on the second, securing the victory for Wozniacki after an hour and 25 minutes.
“It’s always tricky ... There’s a lot of just emotions but I tried to keep them in check, and I thought I did that very well today,” the 29-year-old, who won her only Grand Slam trophy in 2018 at Melbourne Park, told reporters.
Wozniacki will next face the winner of the match between 21st-ranked Dayana Yastremska and Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan.
Wozniacki, who has earned some $35 million in prize money, is credited with putting Denmark on the tennis map after reaching the number one ranking for the first time in 2010.
Reflecting on her achievements, Wozniacki said she hoped to inspire the next generation of Danish players, noting that she herself had no peers while she was climbing up the ranks.
“I do think that having someone there before you would probably have been a little easier, because it would have showed the way and that it’s possible.”
“I always believed in myself, and I always believed that there are no limits to what you can achieve no matter where you’re from.”
Barty storms into second round after stuttering start
World number one Ash Barty made a stuttering start to her bid to end the host nation’s 42-year wait for an Australian Open champion before rallying to beat Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena.
The French Open champion arrived at Melbourne Park on a high after winning her first WTA title on home soil at the Adelaide International on Saturday but was brought down to earth in a topsy-turvy opening set featuring five breaks of serve.
Tsurenko, who beat Barty in their only previous meeting in Brisbane two years ago, belied her ranking of 120th in the world but it was the Australian top seed’s 19 unforced errors that did the most damage.
Barty, though, tidied up her game, rediscovered her touch and levelled up the contest with a thumping ace before racing away with the decider to set up a second-round meeting with Rebecca Peterson or Polona Hercog.
Briton Evans pats stomach after fulfilling comeback win
Dan Evans, urged to “miss a few meals” earlier this month by Britain captain Tim Henman, patted his stomach after completing a brave five-set comeback win over American Mackenzie McDonald to reach the second round of the Australian Open.
The 30th seed’s fitness was under the spotlight pre-tournament after Henman’s light-hearted jibe but Evans had enough in the tank to overhaul McDonald 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 on Court 14 at Melbourne Park.
It was his first win from two sets down and continues a bright start to the season for the Birmingham 29-year-old who starred for Britain during their run to the quarter-finals of the inaugural ATP Cup earlier this month.
“It was just a bit of a joke to the guys in the corner,” Evans told reporters of the stomach pat.
“It wasn’t that physical of a match to be honest, it was more mental, hanging in there."
“I’m just relieved to have come through.”
Evans has come a long way since his last trip to Melbourne Park a year ago, when he was ranked in the high 100s and had to grind through qualifiers as he worked his way back from a year-long ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2017.
With former world number Andy Murray having to withdraw due to injury, Evans, seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam, bears a bigger weight of expectation from fans in Britain.
Not that he feels particularly special.
“I was basically playing on the rail-track, wasn’t I?” he said of his court, which is near a tram stop and some rail tracks.
“I go back to the hotel at night feeling exactly the same... We all know who the British number one, he’s Andy Murray."
“He’s the best player at the minute even if he’s injured and that’s how it’ll be, that’s how I’ll think of it anyway.”
Henman had suggested Evans could push for a top 20 ranking if he watched his diet.
“I’ve got strong legs and a good set of lungs. Everyone can be in better shape, that’s just normal isn’t it?” added Evans.