The 105th edition of Australian Open began with women’s fourth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep going out of the reckoning on first day, Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic and Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos engaging themselves in tournament history’s second longest match on second day and men’s singles seventh seed Marin Cilic crashing out on the third. While Halep was out of sorts against USA’s Shelby Rogers, Karlovic fought back from a two-set deficit to defeat Zeballos in 5¼ hours. On day three, besides Croatia’s Marin Cilic, local favorite Nick Kyrgios also made a self-destructive second-round exit. Elsewhere, first three days of the KIA sponsored event didn’t produce any other surprises. Men and women’s defending champions Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber sailed into second round along with Serena and Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic and others. On third day, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Byrdych and Garbine Muguruza entered the third round. Of the upcoming stars, German teenager Alexander Zverev, USA’s Coco Vandeweghe, Britain’s Heather Watson and Johanna Konta along with Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova also progressed to the second round.
The very first match of 2017 Australian Open was an unmitigated disaster for Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep. She forgot all her tennis against unseeded American Shelby Rogers in her 3-6, 1-6 defeat. The Romanian later told media that she had been plagued with knee tendinitis for some time and that prevented her movements and adequate court coverage. World no.52 Shelby lost her second round match against 20-year old Australian wild-card Ashleigh Barty. A keenly watched man on first day was Swiss legend Roger Federer, who had returned to activity after a long lay-off. Federer played against Austrian qualifier Jurgen Melzer, dropped a set but still romped home with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory. On the third day, the living Swiss legend also entered the third round by beating American qualifier Noah Rubin 7–5, 6–3, 7–6. Earlier to Federer’s first-round match on Monday, world no.1 and top seeded Andy Murray found himself in a hard grind against Illya Marchenko of Ukraine. Murray was tested fully before coming through with a 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 victory. The Scot twisted his ankle in his second round match on third day against Russian Andrey Rublev but still cruised through with an easy 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 victory. Japan’s Kei Nishikori needed to fight hard in his 5–7, 6–1, 6–4, 6–7, 6–2 first round win over Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov but had a much easier 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 second round victory over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
The talking point on second day was the 5 hour 15 minute marathon between Croatian soon-to-be 38-year old Ivo Karlovic and Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos. The Croat lost the first two sets but bounced back amazingly in the next three sets to complete a 6-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20. The 84-game duel was the longest match in Australian Open history game-wise. Counting on time, however, the match fell 38 minutes short of the longest ever match at Melbourne, when Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7, 7–5 in the 2012 final. Karlovic also set a new Australian Open record by hitting 75 aces in a single match. The other second day highlight was provided by German teenager Alexander Zverev, who fought for five sets before winning against Netherlands’ Robin Haase 6–2, 3–6, 5–7, 6–3, 6–2.
Women’s defending champion Germany’s Angelique Kerber dropped a set in her first-round match before beating Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 5-7,6-2. On Day three, Kerber lost another set in her second-round match against Germany’s Carina Witthoft before winning at 6–2, 6–7, 6–2. Federer’s compatriot and fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka was stretched to 5 sets by Slovak Martin Klizan in the first round before coming through at 4–6, 6–4, 7–5, 4–6, 6–4. However, Wawrinka had a relatively easier time in his second round match against USA’s Steve Johnson by recording a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win.
Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios dug his own grave in his second-round match with Italian journeyman Andreas Seppi. It was frustrating for home supporters to see Kyrgios blow away a two-set lead with a series of code violations and unforced errors. Strangely, Kyrgios converted a seemingly straightforward victory into a messy five-set horror before losing to Seppi 6-1, 7-6, 4-6, 2-6, 9-10.
Some interesting contests are lined up over the next few days. In men’s singles third round, Roger Federer will play against Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych, who defeated USA’s Ryan Harrison 6-3, 7-6, 6-2. If Federer manages to beat Berdych in the repeat of their 2016 quarterfinal, he will probably meet Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the fourth round if the Japanese beats Slovakian Lukas Lacko. Elsewhere, woman’s defending champion Angelique Kerber is set to play against the dangerous Czech Karolina Pliskova. Andy Murray also has a tough American guy Sam Querrey in his third round match, while Stan Wawrinka takes on Serbia’s Victor Troicki next.