Australian Open 2021: Sofia Kenin back at Melbourne Park with win in tuneup event; Bianca Andreescu out of warmup
Kenin had just won the first set 7-5 on Tuesday when Camila Giorgi called for the trainer and then retired from their match at the Yarra Valley Classic.
Melbourne: Sofia Kenin had a small crowd in the stands to watch her first match back at Melbourne Park since her Grand Slam breakthrough at last year's Australian Open.
She loved it, although she would have enjoyed a longer stint on the court at Margaret Court Arena. Kenin had just won the first set 7-5 on Tuesday when Camila Giorgi called for the trainer and then retired from their match at the Yarra Valley Classic.
"It feels really great. So happy to see the crowd here," Kenin said in an on-court TV interview. "I'm super happy. I've really missed my fans. Haven't seen you guys for a year — 2020 was a tough year for all of us, we have to move past it."
Kenin had only one match win in previous trips to Melbourne Park in 2018 and '19 before winning her first major title here last year, when she beat local hope Ash Barty in the semifinals and Garbine Muguruza in the final. Kenin also reached the final at the delayed French Open, losing to first-time winner Iga Swiatek, and notched more match wins at Grand Slam events last year than any other woman.
“Obviously, it’s really special. Super glad to be here," Kenin said of her return to Australia. “Trying to somehow handle the emotions on court. I feel like it’s going to be a little bit of a roller coaster next Monday or Tuesday, whenever I play. I feel like you guys, the fans, will see a little bit more emotion.
“Now it’s a little bit quiet, trying to get into the rhythm. Yeah, I’ll somehow have to figure out a way to handle nerves of course for next week.”
Barty needed four match points to finish off her 6-3, 6-3 win over Ana Bogdan in a night match, her first in competition in almost a year.
“I had so much fun out there today. I missed you guys so much," the top-ranked Australian told the crowd in an on-court interview. “This is one of my favorite places to play in the entire world."
Barty opted against travelling during the pandemic, and skipped the US Open and her title defence at Roland Garros.
“I missed it a lot. I wrestled with the decision I my head for quite a while," she said, “”but my health had to be prioritised."
No. 11 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 14 Nadia Podoroska also advanced.
The Yarra Valley Classic is one of six tournaments — three women's and three men's — being staged at Melbourne Park this week to give players some time to prepare for the Australian Open.
The season-opening major has been delayed three weeks because of quarantine and travel restrictions in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. All players and passengers who arrived on 17 charter flights into Australia for the tournament had to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine.
Osaka progresses in straight sets
No. 3-ranked Naomi Osaka had a 6-2, 6-2 win over Alize Cornet in her opening match in the WTA's Gippsland Trophy.
Osaka, who won the US Open last year and the Australian Open title in 2019, will next face No.371-ranked Katie Boulter, who upset No. 14 Coco Gauff 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Kaia Kanepi beat No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 2-6, 6-1. Fifth-seeded Johanna Konta, No. 7 Elise Mertens and No. 12 Caroline Garcia advanced.
Andreescu's absence continues
Bianca Andreescu's long absence from competitive tennis will continue for another week after the 2019 US Open champion withdrew from the Grampians Trophy event scheduled to start Wednesday.
The 20-year-old Canadian hasn't played since the 2019 WTA Trophy because of knee and foot injuries, and is coming off a hard lockdown in Melbourne.
"Following the last two weeks in quarantine, it feels so good to finally be back on the court," Andreescu said in a statement. "After discussing it with my team, we have decided to focus this week on training for the Australian Open and miss the Grampians.
"Many thanks to Tennis Australia and the WTA for their hard work in providing us all of these choices. See you all at the Australian Open!"
Andreescu was among the 72 players forced into the hard lockdown after being deemed a close contact of passengers on their charter flights who returned a positive test for COVID-19 after arriving in Australia last month. Her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, was among those who tested positive for the coronavirus .
Unlike the rest of the playing group, those in lockdown weren't allowed outside to practice for up to five hours a day.
The Grampians Trophy had a delayed start for that reason, and was mainly open to the players who hadn't been able to practice while in quarantine.
No. 12 Belinda Bencic is now the highest-ranked player in the draw, which also includes Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens.
Kyrgios makes winning return after year out
Showman Nick Kyrgios pulled victory "out of a hat" in his first match for a year, rallying from a set down to get his preparations off to a winning start.
The enigmatic 25-year-old last performed in February 2020 at the Acapulco Open, before a wrist injury and then the coronavirus pandemic brought his season to a halt.
He opted not to travel for the US or French Opens, but said at the weekend he was mentally refreshed and excited to be back.
The Australian took time to get his groove back against 209th-ranked Frenchman Alexandre Muller, losing the first set, then needing left knee treatment before knuckling down to win 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) in the Murray River Open.
"It was a tricky one, I haven't played a competitive match in about a year and I dealt with a couple of injuries when in quarantine," he said.
"I was just excited to come out here, any opponent for me was going to be tricky, I just wanted to find my feet.
"I just somehow pulled it out of a hat, which seems to be the story of my career, so just happy to get through. The body feels ok."
Now ranked 47, he will next play fellow Australian Harry Bourchier.
Two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren was also in the winners' circle, beating fellow American John-Patrick Smith 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the Great Ocean Road Open.
Sandgren saved 11 of the 15 break points he faced to set up a clash next up with Italian Salvatore Caruso.
Seventeen-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz also advanced when his Hungarian opponent Attila Balazs retired with heel pain, setting up a second-round clash with top seed David Goffin.
(With inputs from AFP)
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