Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki in action during the match against Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
MELBOURNE, January 14 (Reuters): Highlights of Monday’s opening day of the Australian Open, the first grand slam tournament of the year.
FEDERER EASES PAST ISTOMIN IN OPENER
Roger Federer, chasing a third consecutive Australian Open title, eased past Uzbek Denis Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-4 in the opening round.
The 37-year-old Swiss will face British qualifier Dan Evans, ranked 189 in the world, in the second round.
MURRAY BOWS OUT AFTER FIVE-SET BATTLE
Five-time finalist Andy Murray produced an inspired comeback in what could have been his final match but was eventually beaten by Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(4) 6-2.
The former world number one had announced on Friday that he could be forced retire this year due to a chronic hip problem.
“If this was the last match it was an amazing way to end,” Murray said in an on-court interview.
“I gave literally everything I had. It wasn’t enough tonight, so congratulations to Roberto and his team.
“Maybe I’ll see you again. I’ll do everything possible to try. If I want to go again I need to have a big operation which there’s no guarantee I’ll come back from but I’ll give it my best shot.”
CHAMPION WOZNIACKI BREEZES THROUGH
A dominant Caroline Wozniacki scythed down Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck 6-3 6-4 in 93 minutes to get her title defence off to a strong start.
The Dane, seeded third, hit four aces and won two out of seven break points in a controlled display to down her unseeded opponent and set up a match with Johanna Larsson.
PETKOVIC COLLAPSES ON COURT BEFORE CONCEDING MATCH
Andrea Petkovic was forced to retire from her opening match against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu after collapsing on court during the eighth game of the second set.
The tournament’s trainer and doctor were immediately called to treat the German who trailed in the second set after winning the opening set 7-6(3).
Petkovic eventually got back on her feet and played another point before calling it a day.
FIT-AGAIN BERDYCH BEATS EDMUND
Tomas Berdych, back to full fitness following a back injury, defeated 13th seed Kyle Edmund 6-3 6-0 7-5 to move into the second round in style.
The Czech, a runner-up in the Qatar Open this month, is participating in only his second tournament since the Queen’s Club championships last June but showed no signs of the problem as he dismantled Briton Edmund.
Up next for Berdych is Robin Haase, who beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5 6-4 7-5.
DIMITROV ENJOYING AGASSI MENTORSHIP
Grigor Dimitrov said having eight-times major champion Andre Agassi in his corner as coach had not just sharpened his game but also improved his outlook on life.
“I’m just a better person, period. On a daily basis, I have learned something new from him,” Dimitrov, who began working with the American great last October, said following his win over Janko Tipsarevic.
“Sometimes some of the things he says… it has nothing to do with tennis. And today before the match we are talking about completely different stuff.
“I was, like, ‘Oh, that feels nice.’ I think he also keeps me on point, keeps me on check. He’s just trying to remind you of the good things in life.”
BATTLING ISNER FALLS TO UNSEEDED OPELKA
Ninth seed John Isner was stunned by his American compatriot Reilly Opelka, who secured a 7-6(4) 7-6(6) 6-7(4) 7-6(5) victory in a tight encounter between the towering pair.
Opelka, ranked 102 in the world, moved into the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
KERBER IN CRUISE CONTROL
Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber hardly broke sweat in her clinical 6-2 6-2 victory over unseeded Polona Hercog. Up next for the world number two is Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia who beat Bernarda Pera in three sets to advance.
OSTAPENKO DUMPED OUT BY SAKKARI
Jelena Ostapenko’s poor start to the season continued as the 2017 French Open champion was knocked out in the opening round at Melbourne by Greece’s Maria Sakkari.
Ostapenko, eliminated in the first round in her previous three tournaments, was beaten 6-1 3-6 6-2 by world number 41 Sakkari who scored her first career win over the Latvian to the delight of a noisy contingent of her compatriots.
DIMITROV RALLIES PAST TIPSAREVIC
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov dropped the opening set tamely but regained his composure to power past unseeded Janko Tipsarevic 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-4.
Dimitrov, who struggled with an ankle injury towards the end of last season, hit 42 winners but also made 43 unforced errors during the victory.
STEPHENS MAKES SHORT WORK OF TOWNSEND
Big-hitting American Sloane Stephens relied on accuracy instead of power, winning 69 percent of points on her first serve to ease past compatriot Taylor Townsend 6-4 6-2.
NADAL TOO GOOD FOR DUCKWORTH
World number two Rafa Nadal swatted aside Australian wild card James Duckworth 6-4 6-3 7-5 in a performance that eased concerns over his fitness ahead of the season’s first major.
The 2009 winner had pulled out of the Brisbane International warmup with a thigh strain but showed no signs of the problem in his opener, beating Duckworth in two hours and 15 minutes.
He faces Matthew Ebden or Jan-Lennard Struff next.
ANDERSON EASES PAST MANNARINO
Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson fired 14 aces and 47 winners to blast past Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3 5-7 6-2 6-1 and move into the second round.
The towering South African, who has never gone beyond the fourth round in Melbourne, next meets unseeded American Frances Tiafoe, who beat qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran 7-6(7) 6-3 6-3.
BOULTER FIRST TO WIN DECIDING TIEBREAK
Britain’s Katie Boulter became the first player to win a deciding-set tiebreak at the Australian Open when she managed to hold off a resurgent Ekaterina Makarova and record a 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6) victory.
Boulter, who had also recorded the first ‘bagel’ of the tournament when she took the first set of their clash on Court 12, then struggled to put away the Russian.
Makarova, a former top-10 player, managed to clinch the second set 6-4 before Boulter overcame a break advantage in the third to force the tiebreak.
She then jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first-to-10-points decider and, while Makarova got back to 7-6, Boulter sealed the match with an ace and forehand winner.
The Australian Open has joined Wimbledon this year in introducing a tiebreak when matches are tied at 6-6 in the deciding set. The first player to 10 points with a difference of two wins the contest.
AMERICAN COLLINS UPSETS 14TH SEED GOERGES
Germany’s Julia Goerges became the first seeded player knocked out of the tournament when American Danielle Collins came from a set down to record a 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 victory in the first match on Margaret Court Arena.
The 14th-seeded Goerges had come into the tournament in strong form having successfully defended her Auckland Classic title but looked uncomfortable against the power-hitting 25-year-old, who went for her shots during the second set.
The tactic paid off for Collins, who sealed the win in two hours 25 minutes when her winner smacked into the net and the ball flopped into Goerges’s side of the court.
“The first set didn’t go my way but I had a clear mindset about what I needed to do,” said Collins, who was making her main-draw debut at Melbourne Park.
“I decided today that I had to earn it the hard way, no easy jobs for me and I just out went there with no fear.”
VERDASCO FIRST MAN THROUGH TO SECOND ROUND
Spain’s former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco became the first man through to the second round after he beat Serbian qualifier Miomir Kecmanovic.
The left-handed 26th seeded Verdasco took two hours 11 minutes to beat the teenager 7-6(5) 6-3 6-3 and set up a second-round clash against Moldova’s Radu Albot.
SHARAPOVA ‘DOUBLE BAGELS’ DART
Former champion Maria Sharapova opened the quest for her second title at Melbourne Park with a 6-0 6-0 victory over British qualifier Harriet Dart.
The 22-year-old Briton saved two match points but blasted a backhand volley wide to give the Russian a rare ‘double bagel’ victory in 63 minutes.
MARTIC FIRST INTO SECOND ROUND
Croatia’s Petra Martic wasted little time in the rising temperatures to become the first player through to the second round after she demolished Britain’s Heather Watson 6-1 6-2 on Court 14.
The 31st seed took just 62 minutes to beat Watson and will now meet Czech Republic’s Marketa Vandrousova, who beat Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina 6-3 6-2 within minutes of Martic’s victory.
PLAY UNDERWAY AT MELBOURNE PARK
Play got underway on schedule under sunny skies at 11 a.m. local time (0000) GMT with the temperature hovering just over the 25 degrees Celsius mark and a forecast high of 35C.