The first major tennis spectacle of 2016 got underway at Australia’s Melbourne Park on Monday January 18. Most male and female superstars, who had their matches scheduled for the opening day of the Australian Open, cruised through to the second round. While men’s defending champion Novak Djokovic easily brushed aside Korean youngster Hyeon Chung in straight sets, women’s 2015 champion Serena Williams had some second set hiccups before outlasting Italy’s Camila Giorgi. World no.3 Roger Federer began his quest for the 18th Grand Slam title with a confidence-boosting straight sets win over Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili and no.5 seed Maria Sharapova entered the second round by beating Japan’s Nao Hibino. Other men’s seeded players reaching the second round on first day were; no.6 seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, no.7 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, no.9 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, no.12 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, no.14 seed Gilles Simon of France and no.29 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia. The women’s seeds reaching the second round on opening day were; Poland’s no.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Czech no.6 seed Petra Kvitova, no.12 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, no.13 seed Roberta Vinci of Italy and no.23 seed and recen Sydney International champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia. In men’s draw, big-serving Croat and no.22 seed Ivo Karlovic had to retire due to a left knee injury while playing against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis. However, there were heavy first-day casualties in women’s draw.
Top seed and world no.1 Novak Djokovic was in ruthless form against 19-year old Korean Hyeon Chung. Unaffected by the scorching Melbourne heat, the Serb took just under 2 hours in defeating Chung 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. In 57 career matches played at the Australian Open, Djokovic has now won 51 of them. The five-time defending champion needs just one more win at Melbourne to equal Roy Emerson’s record of 6 titles. In the second round, Djokovic will run into another teenager France’s Quentin Halys, who defeated Croatia’s Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5. Switzerland’s 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer sailed into the second round with a smooth 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia. Federer, who has been having virus-related health issues looked in fine touch against the Georgian and will next face Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, who beat Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. 6-2.
Among other first day men’s winners were; no.6 seed Czech Tomas Berdych, who scored a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over India’s Yuki Bhambri; no.7 seed Japanese Kei Nishikori defeated Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3, 6-3; no.9 seed Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2; no.12 seeded Croatian Marin Cilic beat Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands 6-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4; no.14 seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon, a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 winner over Canadian Vasek Pospisil and Australia’s no.29 seed Nick Kyrgios, who played a great game in defeating Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.
In women’s draw top-seeded defending champion Serena Williams played her first match since her US Open exit but the 4-month break was far from evident in her game. Serena did have some tense moments in the second set but she was otherwise dominant in her 6-4, 7-5 victory over the Italian Camila Giorgi. Among other seeded players, Poland’s 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska defeated USA’s Christina McHale 6-2, 6-3; Russian 5th seed Maria Sharapova beat Japanese Nao Hibino 6-1, 6-3; Czech 6th seed Petra Kvitova outclassed Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum 6-3, 6-1; no.10 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain defeated Swiss Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 6-4; no.12 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland beat USA’s Alison Riske 6-4, 6-3; Italian no.13 Roberta Vinci defeated Austria’s Tamira Paszek 6-4, 6-2 and no.23 seed Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova 6-0, 6-2.
17th seeded Frenchman Benoit Paire and 22nd seeded Croat Ivo Karlovic were the only men’s seeds to lose in the first round on opening day but several women seeded players made their exit on Monday. Among them were Denmark’s no.6 Caroline Wozniacki, no.17 Sara Errani of Italy, no.22 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, no.24 Sloane Stephens of USA, no.25 Samantha Stosur of Australia and no.26 Anastasia Pavlychenkova of Russia.