Australian Open 2021: Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka sail into second round; Angelique Kerber, Gael Monfils out at first hurdle

Venus Williams, on Monday, won a Grand Slam match for the first time since 2019.

The Associated Press February 08, 2021 10:31:18 IST
Australian Open 2021: Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka sail into second round; Angelique Kerber, Gael Monfils out at first hurdle

Serena Williams defeated Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 on the first day of the tournament. AP

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka wasted little time in breezing into the second round as the Australian Open began on Monday, three weeks later than originally scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan's Osaka, the third seed, struck the first serve on Rod Laver Arena against Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the women's singles and strode to the net to touch racquets with her opponent just 68 minutes later after a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

"I was really nervous coming into this match. I just wanted to play well," Osaka told a smattering of spectators on the socially-distanced centre court.

Williams started her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title in style with a 6-1, 6-1 romp past Germany's Laura Siegemund in 56 minutes.

"This was a good start, it was vintage Serena," said the 39-year-old, playing an unparallelled 100th match at the tournament and turning heads in a vivid, one-legged catsuit.

The 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu won an emotional first match back after 15 months out against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

The 20-year-old Canadian last played at the WTA Finals in October 2019 at Shenzen, China, where she suffered the knee injury that scuppered her entire 2020 season.

French Open champion Iga Swiatek, 19, beat Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-3 to reach the second round and continue her Grand Slam winning streak.

Men's third seed and US Open champion Dominic Thiem was made to work hard in the first set by Kazakh veteran Mikhail Kukushkin before coming through 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-3.

"He's very experienced and the first set was super-challenging," said Thiem, beaten by Novak Djokovic in five epic sets in the Australian Open final last year.

Sixth seed Alexander Zverev had a harder time, dropping a set and smashing a racquet before grinding to a 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-2 win against American Marcos Giron.

"He played incredible," said the German, who lost to Thiem in the final in New York and the Melbourne semi-finals last year.

"He had me on the ropes, particularly in the second set tie-break."

The tournament is known as the "Happy Slam" for its convivial atmosphere but the pandemic has overshadowed the event this year with fewer spectators, mandatory mask-wearing and fans unable to circulate freely around the grounds.

Kerber out, Wawrinka through

Preparations had to be hastily rearranged as late as last Wednesday when a coronavirus case at a tournament hotel -- the city's first local infection in 28 days -- forced a suspension of play.

Hundreds of players and officials were tested and all were negative.

Angelique Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open winner, was the first significant casualty of the women's championship when the 23rd-seeded German lost 6-0, 6-4 to 63rd-ranked American Bernarda Pera.

There were no such problems for the 2014 men's champion, Stan Wawrinka, as he reached the second round for a 16th straight time with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win against Portugal's Paulo Sousa.

"It's always amazing and special to come back here. Winning my first Grand Slam was something unbelievable, amazing memories," said the 35-year-old Swiss 17th seed.

Milos Raonic, the 14th seed from Canada, also enjoyed serene progress through to the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Federico Coria of Argentina.

But Gael Monfils, the French 10th seed, is out after being stunned 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 by Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, the world number 86, in three hours and 46 minutes.

Men's number one Djokovic, looking for a record-extending ninth Melbourne Park crown, begins his quest in the late night match on Rod Laver Arena against France's Jeremy Chardy.

Women's world number two Simona Halep, who has been battling a back injury, will open the evening session against Australian wild card Lizette Cabrera.

Top women's seed Ashleigh Barty, defending champion Sofia Kenin and 20-time men's singles Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal all begin their challenge on Tuesday.

Updated Date:

Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply

also read

ATP rankings: Daniil Medvedev breaks into top three as Aslan Karatsev soars 72 places
Sports

ATP rankings: Daniil Medvedev breaks into top three as Aslan Karatsev soars 72 places

Medvedev finished runner-up at a Grand Slam for the second time as he was swept aside by top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final in Melbourne, the Serb collecting his 18th major title.

Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and the curious case of protective rankings
Sports

Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and the curious case of protective rankings

What was mind boggling was that Barty’s 1351 points lead over Naomi Osaka and 1931 points over Simona Halep was due almost entirely to tournaments she had played (and done well at) over a year before.

One-dimensional counterpuncher to mean server, Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in a league of his own
Sports

One-dimensional counterpuncher to mean server, Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in a league of his own

Time and again, Djokovic has produced incredible tennis against some of his biggest opponents, especially against Nadal and Federer. Fans will obviously remember the 2019 Wimbledon final against crowd favorite Federer after being down two Championship points, but the transformation from good to great to legend started after his memorable Australian Open final against Nadal in 2012.