On a big opening day at the Australian Open, young phenon Coco Gauff stole the show yet again, putting away a game Venus Williams 7-6(5), 6-3 in the first round Monday.
Gauff, who stunned the 7-time Slam champ back at Wimbledon, jumped out early leading 5-3. But she couldn’t convert on three set points and the opening stanza went to a decider in which the youngster dug in and snatched it.
Gauff got out to another lead in the second then hung on behind a good serve and strong net play.
“I definitely was more confident this time,” said Gauff. “I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time. I was definitely a bit more positive coming into this match this time around.”
Venus, who was playing her first match of the year after multiple withdrawals, credited the girl 24 years her junior.
. “I think honestly she played really well, consistently, both matches,” said Venus. “So I think that was some of the similarities. She just played really well and really focused.
“She clearly wants it, works very hard, is extremely mature for her age. I think the sky’s the limit for her.”
Sister Serena also faced teen opposition in 18-year-old Anastasia Potapova. The tournament favorite blew the Russian out in the first then fought from an early break down to take it 6-0. 6-3.
“I felt like I started out really well,” said Serena. “I played really strong in the first set, and just [built] on that.
“I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now.”
World No. 1 Ash Barty was on the marquee in the evening, and after a slugging start the Australian favorite got into gear pulling away from Lesia Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.
Defending champ Naomi Osaka got off to a good start winning the last four games to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.
“For me it’s really odd here,” said Osaka of defending. “I just feel really happy. I don’t really have this mentality of, I’m, like, defending now. It’s really weird.
“But I’m very thankful for it, because I think if I did go into the match with that, I would have been more tense.”
Among the other 16 matches completed on a rainy Monday, Petra Kvitova dropped just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 destruction of countrywoman Katerina Siniakova.
Sofia Kenin and Petra Martin also advanced with Sloane Stephens’s troubles continued. The American served for the match against Shuai Zhang at 5-4 in the second but then fell apart to lose it 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
In action on Tuesday are Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Maria Sharapova and former champion Angelique Kerber.
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