Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki needed to work in the first set against American former world No. 1 junior Taylor Townsend, but otherwise it was all butter for the Top 10 women’s seeds on Tuesday at the Australian Open.
Current world No. 1 Serena Williams led the charge, rolling over Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-0, 6-4
“As always, I had the jitters going out in the first match of a Grand Slam,” Serena said. “It’s never super easy to be the one that everyone wants to beat. So I always have to be a little bit above. But yeah, I felt okay. I definitely think I can improve a tremendous amount though.”
She will next face a player who has beaten her twice during her career in Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva, who continues her run back to form from a shoulder injury, defeating Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-3.
Other Top 10-seeded winners Tuesday were No. 4 Petra Kvitova over Dutchwoman Richel Hogenkamp 6-1, 6-4; No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska rolling Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-0; and the No. 8 seed Wozniacki who overcame a tester in the first set to beat Townsend 7-6(1), 6-2.
The Woz will next meet former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who made easy work of American Sloane “Ranger” Stephens 6-3, 6-2.
“To be honest, I don’t look at this match like it’s an early stage — it’s just going to be another tough match for me,” said Azarenka, who hasn’t met Wozniacki on tour in approximately four years. “Being unseeded, it’s not a surprise that I have a tough draw or tough opponents in the early rounds. I just need to go through that. I will just accept the challenges…We always have tough matches. I just need to focus on myself, prepare the best I can and just compete.”
Three veteran seeds were dumped out in the opening round on Tuesday when Italian upstart Camila Giorgi outlasted countrywoman No. 12 Flavia Pennetta from a set down 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; surging American Madison Brengle likewise from a set down beat No. 13 Andrea Petkovic 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3; and Swiss Timea Bacsinszky rolled over No. 15 Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-4.
Lower seeds joining the top dogs in the second round were No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova who lost the first set against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, No. 18 Venus Williams, No. 19 Alize Cornet, No. 20 Samantha Stosur, No. 24 Garbine Muguruza Blanco, No. 25 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, No. 26 Elina Svitolina, No. 29 Casey Dellacqua, and No. 30 Varvara Lepchenko.
The elder Williams sister is now 6-0 on the year after beating Wozniacki in the Auckland final.
“I felt good out there,” Williams said after coming back from a break in the first set to defeat Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-2, 6-2. “I felt like my serve was working, moving well, playing aggressive. She and I had a really tough match at Wimbledon last year, and even from the first game she was just hitting the ball so hard.”
Other notables into the second round on Tuesday were German Mona Barthel turning back talented Croatian comer Donna Vekic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2; Bulgarian veteran Tsvetana Pironkova ending Hobart winner Heather Watson’s Aussie Open early 6-4, 6-0; and the additional slew of American women advancements in Lauren Davis, Madison Keys, Nicole Gibbs, Irina Falconi who outlasted Kaia Kanepi 7-5 in the fifth, and Coco Vandeweghe who topped former Slam winner Francesca Schiavone.
In the final women’s match of the night, Australian Ajla Tomljanovic outlasted American Shelby Rogers 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.
On the men’s side the five Top 10 players in action showed how it is done early on at a Slam, with only David Ferrer dropping a set in moving into the second round.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic led the charge by dismissing Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-2, 6-4,
“It hasn’t been an ideal couple of weeks in terms of health and preparation,” said Djokovic, who looks to have recovered from the illness that contributed to an early-round loss at the ATP Doha event. “But I fought my way through. Now it’s behind me. I’m only looking forward. I think I did well in terms of responding to the slow start today, feeling a little bit rusty on the court. So hopefully the next one will be even better.”
The Serb said he was surprised by Bedene’s big serve and his difficulty reading it.
“The courts are playing a little bit faster than they were the past two years,” Djokovic said. “So if you have a big serve, know how to use it, it’s a big advantage on these courts.”
He will next meet Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, who topped Spaniard Albert Ramos 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
Joining Djokovic in the second round were fellow Top 10 seeds No. 4 Stanislas Wawrinka who lost only seven games against Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan 6-1, 6-4, 6-2; No. 5 Kei Nishikori who was tested in the first two sets against veteran Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2; No. 8 Milos Raonic who was held to task against the Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 6-3; and the No. 9-seeded Ferrer who came from a set down to beat Brazilian veteran Thomaz Bellucci 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.
“I can feel that I have a lot of support here,” said the defending champ Wawrinka, who will next face Romanian Marius Copil. “It’s always nice to come back like that and to feel the crowd behind you.”
Seeded players that didn’t have that crowd-support love on Tuesday were the fast-sliding No. 16 Fabio “The Fabulous One” Fognini losing to Alejandro Gonzalez 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4; No. 21 Alexandr Dolgopolov who was upset by Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2; No. 25 Julien Benneteau who was sent home by Benjamin Becker 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4; and No. 27 Pablo Cuevas who was beaten down by German Matthias Bachinger 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-1.
Raonic will next face an interesting meeting with American “The” Donald Young, who defeated Tim Puetz 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
“It was what I needed it to be, especially with how well I served,” said Raonic of tiebreaks in the first two sets against Marchenko. “I probably should have stepped up and taken a few more risks on the return games. I felt at some points I got a little monotone with my game and I sort of stooped into a not-so-effective game plan, especially on the return side.”
Other unseeded winners of note were Canadian Vasek Pospisil benefiting from a wavering American Sam Querrey in five sets, former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt topping China’s Zhang Ze in four, and No. 2-ranked American Steve Johnson beating Brit Kyle Edmund in straights.
Hewitt will next meet the upset-minded Becker.
“Yeah, the motivation, the buzz is still there, absolutely,” said Hewitt on his 19th win at the Australian Open. “You know, I love walking through the corridors, the practice sessions on Rod Laver Arena, the week leading up to the Slam. The start of the Australian Open, there’s always a real buzz around anyway. But this is one of the things I really miss when I do eventually retire.”
Safely into the second round, some not without their struggles, were additional seeds No. 12 Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez potentially gassed after outlasting American Denis Kudla 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8; No. 13 Roberto Bautista beating Austrian comer Dominic Thiem 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(5); No. 18 Gilles Simon; No. 19 John Isner; No. 30 Santiago Giraldo; and No. 31 Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco coming from a set down to beat Brit James Ward.
In the final entertaining match of the night, No. 17-seeded Gael “Force” Monfils came back from two sets down to school young fellow Frenchman Lucas “Everyone Out of the” Pouille 6-7(3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
Highlights on Wednesday in Oz are slim — in addition to Roger Federer, Genie Bouchard and Maria Sharapova in action, look for (3) Rafael Nadal vs. American Tim Smyczek, Samuel Groth vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis in an all-Aussie, (6) Andy Murray vs. Aussie Marinko Matosevic, and (7) Tomas Berdych vs. Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer.
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