Today’s tennis stories from the Australian Open.
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And that will be all for today. The tennis at the Australian Open has finally begun after the seemingly endless Novak Djokovic visa/vaccination saga ... and I can exclusively reveal that tennis is much more fun. We’ll be back tomorrow for more. Much more! Bye.
“Cameron Norrie certainly never stopped trying. Even as game after game fell away and the match rushed to an increasingly unavoidable outcome, his footwork remained pristine, he continued to land as many returns as he could and he searched diligently for solutions."
Karatsev defeats Munar! 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 4-6, 4-6!
Pushing half-past midnight, the No 18 seed Karatsev has finally done it! Munar pushed him to deuce, threatening to go even deeper into the final set, but Karatsev serves it out, and will progress into the second round. Beat that! Karatsev, in the end, hit 107 unforced errors. Presumably he raised his racket to the crowd when he reached his ton?
And now 30-30. Karatsev two points away ...
Munar has 15-30 on the Karatsev serve. Drama.
I’m seeing on Twitter that Karatsev has reached a century of unforced errors in this match. Impressive.
Munar holds serve against Karatsev. Karatsev is now serving for the match at 5-4 in the fifth set. What a cracker!
China’s Wang Qiang shocked Coco Gauff, the 18th seed, in the women’s singles earlier today. Here’s the report of that match, among others:
I’m unable to watch, but Munar v Karatsev sounds spicy. Munar had three break points at 0-40 on Karatsev’s serve which would have made it 4-4 ... but Karatsev eventually held and now leads 5-3 in the final set. Munar is serving to stay in match and tournament.
As the attention in Melbourne Park swiftly shifted from Australia’s legal courts to its tennis courts, the two most successful women’s players over the past few years both took their first steps towards a possible collision in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Naomi Osaka, the defending champion in Melbourne, returned to grand slam competition early in the day by defeating Camila Osorio 6-3, 6-3. The world No 1, Ashleigh Barty, followed her later in the day as she picked Lesia Tsurenko apart 6-0, 6-1 to reach the second round.
Emma Raducanu claimed a grand slam trophy even before she played a major champion but the 19-year-old could face a daunting task on her Australian Open debut when she meets former US Open winner Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.
Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a grand slam in the Open era when she defeated Leylah Fernandez in New York last September but the teenager has struggled to replicate the same form since, with early losses at Indian Wells and Linz.
She also contracted Covid-19 late last year and pulled out of the Australian Open warm-up tournament in Melbourne, before an early defeat by Elena Rybakina in Sydney but Raducanu said she was not bogged down by disappointing results.
“I think it’s going to be a tough match for sure. I’m going to go out there and enjoy the match because just playing in this grand slam, I had to work so hard to be here. Yeah, I’ll just go out there and enjoy,” Raducanu said.
Three former French Open champions are also in action on the main showcourts at Melbourne Park, as the Spaniard Garbine Muguruza takes on Clara Burel, Poland’s Iga Swiatek plays Harriet Dart and Romanian Simona Halep faces Magdalena Frech.
Among the men, Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev takes on Swiss Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, while fourth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Swede Mikael Ymer. Russia’s Andrey Rublev is also in action against Italian Gianluca Mager. (Reuters)
It’s past midnight in Melbourne. What an epic duel between Karatsev, seeded 18, and Munar. The Spaniard, who comes from Majorca, has forced it back to 4-3 in the final set.
Karatsev has gone 4-1 up in the final set against Munar:
6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 4-6, 2-4
Dominant stuff from Paula Badosa today. She’s one to watch for sure.
Aslan Karatsev, the No 18 seed, has gone a break up in the final set of his epic five-set duel with Jaume Munar. He leads 3-1 and 40-0.
Eurosport don’t seem to be showing it anywhere, though, not on either of their UK channels or in the app.
Badosa has a chat with the clock close to midnight in Melbourne: “I’m really happy to be here, to play on this stage, I always saw this court [Margaret Court Arena] on TV, it’s my first time playing on this court, and I really enjoyed playing here ... credit to the physio [in the first-set medical timeout], they did a good job, three minutes I know is not a lot time ... it helped me a lot ... I knew I had to go for my shots, I’m a little bit exhausted, but it goes how it goes ...
“I want to thank the Aussie people, I wasn’t expecting having today people cheering for me and I really appreciate it ... it’s amazing to play in front of crowds again. I appreciate it more because it’s very late, so thank you for staying. She’s an amazing player, I played her last week and it was a very tough match, and I was expecting a very tough one ... I wish her a speedy recovery, and the same for me, because I’m playing in two days.”
Badosa beats Tomljanović: 6-4, 6-0!
The first set was closer, the second set was completely one-sided. Both players took a medical timeout in the first set, so perhaps there is a question mark on Badosa’s fitness ... but on that kind of form, she is a threat for the title.
Badosa 6-4, 5-0 *Tomljanović (* denotes next server)
Another very easy hold for Badosa, who had an excellent year last year, and on this form will be very hopeful of going deep into the tournament. Can Tomljanović get on the board in this second set?
Badosa* 6-4, 4-0 Tomljanović (* denotes next server)
Badosa is crushing the ball from the baseline. She strikes one particularly powerful forehand winner down the line. She punches the air as her opponent, the Australian Tomljanović, looks a bit shell-shocked. Badosa is a double break up and cruising into the second round, unless Tomljanović can somehow turn the tables.
Munar v Karatsev (18) is turning into an epic: Latest score is 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 4-6. They are into a fifth and final set.
Badosa 6-4, 3-0 Tomljanović* (* denotes next server)
Badosa now holds to love, the first love game of the match. She is running away with this ...
Badosa* 6-4, 2-0 Tomljanović (* denotes next server)
The Spaniard, who is striking the ball with tremendous authority and moving superbly around the court, breaks early in the second set, while Tomljanović shakes her head in disbelief. This is going to be over sooner rather than later unless Tomljanović can upset her opponent’s momentum.
Badosa holds to begin the second set against Tomljanović. 6-4, 1-0.
“You can reach over, but you cannot touch the net ... he’s done incredibly well there.”
As I mentioned earlier, this shot by Altmaier was a bit of a madness ... look at the backspin on the shot by Zverev, on the replay from courtside!
I didn’t notice at the time but it appears that Zverev didn’t actually realise he’d sealed the match when he won the decisive point against Altmaier. Comical scenes.
The Spaniard and No 8 seed Badosa has a fourth match point against Tomljanović ... and she takes it! She wins the first set, 6-4.
Zverev speaks: “Not much went to plan today, to be honest, except that I won, but that’s how it is sometimes, it’s the first round of hopefully a very long tournament ... you’re not always going to play your best tennis, except if you’re Roger or Rafa, you always come out and you’re always perfection, but I’m not like them ... it was a good match for me to get into the tournament, and hopefully next time will be better.”
Asked a question about the wind and whether or not it was difficult to deal with, Zverev says: “It’s very tough to understand what you’re saying, ... I am German, with Russian roots, living in Monaco,” he replies, smiling, as the crowd laughs “English is my fourth language, so ...”
The crowd cheers and continues to roar with laughter. Zverev now looks ahead to his second-round date with John Millman: “I played him a few times, I played him once at the French Open which was five-and-a-half hours, five sets, so ... yeah, he’s a very difficult player to beat ... hopefully it’ll be another fun one, and I’m looking forward to being back on court.”
Altmaier, deservedly, gets a fine ovation from the crowd on Rod Laver Arena.
Zverev defeats Altmaier in straight sets! 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (1)
That was a stern examination for the world No 3 and third seed Zverev against the world No 87 ... a cracking match in the end. Two hours and 38 minutes, in the end, and Altmaier fought impressively hard on his first appearance at the Australian Open.
Zverev bashes an Altmaier second serve down the line for 5-1.
Utterly lovely stuff from Zverev, forcing Altmaier into submission, crashing a forehand deep into the corner that his opponent has zero hope of getting back. 3-1 in the tiebreak, and now 4-1, and this looks all but over.
Zverev tonks a trademark serve down for 1-0, then edges another gruelling baseline rally for 2-0 in the breaker ... did Zverev expect this match to be so tough? Altmaier hits back with a good wide first serve for 2-1.
Tomljanović trails Badosa 5-4 in the first set ... both players have broken serve three times!
He’s done it! 7-6, 6-1, 6-6. It’s a third-set tiebreak. Hats off to Altmaier for keeping the vibe alive.
Zverev hits long! Another game point for Altmaier, and a chance to force a tiebreak! Can he seal it?
Altmaier forces a game point. Zverev saves it – and swiftly creates match point no 4 ... but Altmaier crunches a stunning first serve down the middle, and he’s still alive!
Altmaier double-faults for 0-15 in this potentially decisive game. A punishing, physical rally then finishes with the younger man finding the net and it’s 0-30. Two points away for Zverev. Zverev then whips a stunning crosscourt backhand which fizzes away beyond Altmaier. Simply too good. Zverez smells blood, but then a brilliant sliced backhand from his opponent, approaching the net, gets him on the board in this service game and it’s 15-40 ... Zverev soon hits beyond the baseline for 30-40 ... and hits it out, again, and Altmaier has fought back to deuce!
A dimissive service hold from Zverev and it’s 6-5 in the third. The overall scores on the doors are 7-6, 6-1, 6-5. Altmaier has fought really well. But now he needs to serve to stay in the match.
In the women’s singles, on Margaret Court Arena, Ajla Tomljanović and Paula Badosa are in the first set, with the Spanish No 8 seed leading 4-3. We’ll join up with that one as soon as Zverev v Altmaier is done and dusted.
A cracking rally, in which Altmaier has Zverev on the back foot, ends with Altmaier volleying wide for 15-30 and Zverev is only two points away from progress to the next round. Altmaier comes again, though, sneaks to 30-30 and then sets up a game point ... and he gets it! There seemed to be a call of ‘out’ from the crowd, which perhaps confused Zverev, but anyway, it’s 5-5! We still have a game on here.
Here’s that odd little winner from Altmaier from earlier on, courtesy of Eurosport Germany:
Zverev holds with ease and moves to 5-4 in the third. He is a game away from a straight-sets win. Hats to Altmaier for fighting back into this match after he flaked in the second set ... but can he turn up the heat again, and force Zverev into some uncomfortable places at the business end of the third?
Tell you what though, it’s nice to see some actual tennis after all the Novak Djokovic nonsense, isn’t it? I wonder what happened to him.
Zverev cruises into a 0-40 lead on the Altmaier serve. But the 23-year-old, who hails from Kempen near Düsseldorf, produces a couple of massive serves, and massive points, to grind it back to deuce from what then became 15-40. Zverev hits a poor shot long, to give Altmaier a game point, but Altmaier then double-faults at what feels like almost the worst possible time. Mentally, however, Altmaier is present and correct, and cracks a superb deep forehand to the corner to bring himself another game point ... But Zverev isn’t going away, he saves that game point, and then Altmaier attempts a strange floaty effort wide which bounces out. Zverev then forces another error, and he soon breaks, and that feels very significant indeed, because Altmaier was so, so close to moving to 5-4 there. Instead it’s 4-4 and Zverev has cancelled out the break.
Daniel Altmaier is fighting back against his compatriot, Alexander Zverev.
A pretty comfortable hold for Zverev for 4-3, sealing it with a power-packed first serve down the middle.
Altmaier holds! He comes to the net and crushes an overhead volley which bounces high and out of the court, and he leads 4-2 in the third set!
Altmaier is firmly back in this match. He powers a brilliant inside-out forehand winner down the line and then wins an exciting rally with both players attacking the net. But then he sends a forehand wide to make it 30-30 instead of what would have been 40-15. “He has to keep stamping on Zverev,” as the commentator observes, but fails to do so, dumping a backhand low into the net, and coughing up a break point. Zverev hits fractionally long on that break point, though, and we are on deuce in what’s looking to be a crucial sixth game of the third set.
Munar wins the third set against the 18th seed Karatsev! It’s 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 there.
Altmaier breaks! Well done! Well done indeed. He converts his first break point of the match, Zverev putting a volley into the net, and the 23-year-old German forges 3-2 ahead in the third set. If he can win this set and force his way right back into this contest, it would be fairly astonishing, given the meekness with which he surrendered that second set.
Altmaier is back and fighting. He forces 0-30 on the Zverev serve. He crushes a big forehand to the baseline and has his opponent under pressure but then produces a poor attempted drop shot which Zverev easily runs down and puts away for 30-30. That was a big chance missed ... and Altmaier shakes his head knowing exactly that.
Zverev continues to try and outmuscle his opponent with some big groundstrokes but Altmaier is fighting as hard as he can. He has a foothold in this set, at least, in comparison to the second set which was surrendered in double-quick time. Altmaier holds serve for 2-2 and he’s battling hard.
Zverev races through his latest service game for 2-1 in the third. He can see the finish line.
Munar and Karatsev are still duking it out in the third set, at deuce, with Munar leading it 6-5.
Altmaier comes to the net and plays an odd volley with the ball spinning back to Zverev’s side, reaching over the net to hit it, and prompting a glance at the umpire from Zverev ... on the next point, Altmaier is racing around the court like a man possessed and produces a couple of inspired shots to force an error from Zverev and take it to 40-15 on his serve ... Zverev then hits long after another good rally and Altmaier is on the board in the second set at 1-1. Zverev had won eight of the previous nine games.
Zverev, fully in control now against his compatriot, moves 1-0 ahead in the third set. Altmaier, incidentally, has only won one tour match on hard court before now.
Millman has secured a fifth visit to the second round at his home grand slam.
Over on the Show Court Arena (or is the John Cain Arena?) Jaume Munar and the 18th seed Aslan Karatsev are at 5-5 and deuce in the third. It’s 1-1 in sets.
Zverev has won the second set against Altmaier, 6-1, so he has cruised into a two sets to love lead.
The victorious Australian, Millman, speaks to Jim Courier on Margaret Court Arena: “Look, I think I started off really well, and Feliciano wasn’t serving too well ... but he started landing that first serve in the third and fourth set ... I think probably the crowd got behind me, you know?
“Look, the last 18 months for an Australian tennis player have been extremely challenging ... the people have been in and out of lockdowns ... Australian players sent the best part of 18 months in tournament bubbles ... to be able to come out now, and have crowds, and use their energy ... it’s great ... it’s really nice to have a win after an average start to the year that I’ve had.
“You have to be playing great tennis to match it against the top guys ... hopefully we can get on a big court [against potential match v Alexander Zverev], the crowd can get behind me, and I’ll give it my all.”
Millman beats Lopez! 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5!
Millman whips a lovely backhand pass crosscourt for 0-15. Lopez comes to the net, next up, and forces Millman to hit wide for 15-15. A close-range exchange at the net in the next point has the crowd on their feet, Millman making it 15-30 with a fine winner from way out wide, and then the Australian clips a lovely winner down the line to create two match points. Lopez saves one with a volley ... but then dumps the next volley into the net! And Millman has it!
Altmaier stems the bleeding and makes it 4-1 in the second against Zverev.
The answer, as to what’s occurring in Lopez v Millman, is 5-5 and 30-30 in the fourth. Millman produces a timely ace and brings a cheer from the smattering of fans on Margaret Court Arena. Lopez then attempts a big, booming forehand to the corner but it’s a touch long and Millman takes the game. He’ll have a tiebreak, at the least, and a chance to win the match now that he leads the Spaniard 6-5.
Zverev plays a somewhat outrageous little backhand drop volley which sets up a winner for 15-0. Then he immediately dumps another drop volley into the net for 15-15. Two big serves and it’s 40-15 ... and Zverev rounds off another regulation service game with a big ace down the middle. It’s 4-0, and I’m going to switch over to see what’s going on in Lopez v Millman.
Altmaier looks almost ready to crumble, as Zverev quickly forces two break points and finds himself on the verge of a double break of serve in the second set. Altmaier rallies and grinds out a couple of points and takes it to deuce, but then butchers a single-handed backhand down the line to hand Zverev a third break point of the game. Zverev nabs it, and eases into a 3-0 lead in the second set. Worrying signs for Altmaier after he battled so impressively in the first set.
Lopez 4-4 Millman are in the fourth. Millman leads by two sets to one.
Zverev, again, tries to wear his opponent down with a succession of punishing groundstrokes from the back of the court. But Altmaier won’t be bullied and eventually forces a mistake to save a game point and make it 40-30. At the next time of asking, though, Zverev dispatches a regulation volley after coming to the net and creates a 2-0 lead in this second set.
Zverev races to a 0-40 lead on Altmaier’s serve in the first game of the second set, and quickly rounds off the break of serve at the earliest possible opportunity with a dismissive backhanded crosscourt finisher. It looks like that first set tiebreak will prove to be a key moment ... unless that very indifferent service game from Altmaier proves to be a mere blip.
Zverev wins the first set against Altmaier, 7-6 (3)!
Altmaier is fighting impressively hard here but the combination of Zverev’s fearsome power and accuracy, allied to his fluent mobility around the court is proving a little too much ... Zverev winds up a massive, emphatic crosscourt forehand to seal the first set in 63 minutes.
A couple of big, booming forehands from Zverev forces it to 5-2.
Zverev grabs a mini-break and leads the first-set tiebreaker 3-1 ... but then double faults for 3-2!
Altmaier holds with a sensational volley from close range, with both players at the net, showing superb reactions, and we have a tiebreak in the first!
Meanwhile, Lopez and Millman are 2-2 in the fourth.
Not sure about these shorts from Zverev, if I’m honest.
After a titanic battle in the previous game, Zverev races through his next service game, rounding it off with a big overhead volley, and he edges 6-5 ahead in this first set. Altmaier must serve, once again, to stay in the first set. Zverev had his chances to take it on his opponent’s serve last time. Can he do it this time?
Having saved three game points, Altmaier digs out another huge, wide serve, wins the game and it’s 5-5! That was a great battle.
A slice of luck from Zverev with a volley at the net brings another set point. Altmaier reacts with a huge first serve down the middle that Zverev can’t get back: back to deuce. Zverev snatches another set point, his third, but soon clips a forehand long and again we are back to deuce in what feels like a decisive game.
Zverev forces it to 15-30 on Altmaier’s serve ... his eyes then light up with a chance for a winner crosscourt which he slams towards the tramlines, but it’s called fractionally out. No matter – he brings set point for the first time – and then tries to bully his opponent out of a stunning 33-shot baseline rally with brute force. But Altmaier, impressively, stands firm and eventually forces the mistake. Having brought it back to deuce he smashes an ace down the middle ... and then tries a bizarre attempted drop shot which skews off his racket and goes long. Back to deuce and the game goes on ...
On the Margaret Court Arena, Millman holds serve in the first game of the fourth set against López. Zverev fashions game point with a lethal combination of a big, wide serve followed by a powerful double-handed backhand which is deep into the opposite corner. Altmaier has no answer, Zverev moves 5-4 ahead in the first set, and his countryman must now serve to stay in it.
Hello everyone, Luke McLaughlin taking over from John Brewin for the next while. Zverev takes Altmaier to 30-30 on his compatriot’s serve ... but Altmaier holds it together well and cracks a decisive down-the-line forehand which Zverev can’t get back. Zverev sends a return long on the next point, on second serve, and Altmaier holds. We haven’t had a break point for either player in this first set.
Feliciano Lopez serves for the third set against John Millman, who has the home support on his side but goes a set point down, with two in hand for the Spaniard who takes the set, job done. It’s 1-6 3-6 6-4 and Lopez may well have the momentum.
This German pair continue to slug it right out, in the kind of style that can be viewed here. Zverev leads 3-2 but is being made to work by Altmaier.
Some quotes from Rafael Nadal after his three-set defeat of Marcos Giron.
This has been especially difficult because it’s not only a comeback from an injury, it’s a comeback trying to be back on the tour after almost two years playing not many events with the virus. But here I am. I am super happy about all the work that we have done to try to be back. We are here enjoying the tennis, and that’s it. We’re going to keep trying hard.
Altmaier hits back and it’s 1-1 on the Rod Laver, and Zverev is made to work on his next service game, too, eventually won to lead 2-1. This looks a tough assignment for the world number 3. A Wikipedia search reveals a player who has only reached one grand slam final is the ninth biggest earner in tennis history.
In the Rod Laver Arena, Alexander Zverev, one of the game’s most talented players, a semi-finalist in 2020 here, is taking on his German compatriot, Daniel Altmaier. There’s an early double fault for Zverev in the opening service game, though the higher seed eventually takes that.
Australian fans are currently whooping it up as their man, John Millman is in a two-sets lead over Feliciano Lopez, though he is a break down and 2-0 down in the third set. That’s being played in the Margaret Court Arena.
By the way, Barty will next meet Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti, the world number 145, after she beat Russia’s Varvara Gracheva in the opening round.
Some quotes from Cameron Norrie after his comprehensive 6-3 6-0 6-4 loss to Sebastian Korda.
I think that’s maybe my worst match in the last eight months or so. I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and just I was slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss. I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on. Korda was too good today. Any time I had a chance to come back, he served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me. I didn’t play well in really any big point today. That’s part of it and just a disappointing way to start the year with this match.
Jelena Dokic is the interviewer as Ash Barty speaks, and Dokic gets all emotional about last year’s Wimbledon win. This isn’t the way Gary Richardson used to do it but it brings some interesting answers.
This is beautiful, it’s felt like an eternity. Nice to be back on home soil, it was a lot of fun out here. It was nice and clean, end to end, I did a good job, it’s windy at court level. I feel like I enjoyed it, that was the important thing. [On her Vogue spread] I am a proud indigenous woman, I love my heritage, I love to celebrate my heritage, it’s what keeps connected with the people, it’s what keeps me connected with the land.
Barty beats Tsurenko 6-0 6-1
Easily done this time, with three match points gained on her serve. The first goes out, and the home favourite from Ipswich, Queensland then misses her second winning chance. Nerves, can’t be? No, a crashing serve gets the job done. Nice and easy does it.
Barty, at 5-0 up, seeks to complete a perfect match. She goes to 30-30 on the Tsurenko service, which remains as shaky as ever. Match point arrives at 30-40, but then a slow second serve brings up an unenforced error from Barty. Deuce it is, where a long rally is won by Barty’s greater accuracy to set up a second match point. Then comes another Barty error. Nerves? Then a winner sets up an advantage for Tsurenko, who takes her first game. The double bagel is avoided.
Sofia Kenin, the 2020 champion, is out! With Madison Keys having beaten her 7-6 7-5. Does that register as a shock? Not in the light of Keys having won the Adelaide Open and Kenin’s ranking falling off a cliff. Another thing to show how much has changed in the last couple of years.
“The serve brutalised,” says Simon Reed on the Eurosport coverage in the UK. “Like shelling peas, couldn’t be easier.” Is shelling peas easy? Tsurenko smashes the ball into the net for 4-0 to Barty. This is getting cruel.
3-0 now in the second set, all nine games won in 36 minutes for Barty. Highly impressive from her, devastating for her opponent.
Guess what? Barty goes 1-0 up in the second set with some ease, too. This is not going at all well for the world number 120. The 2-0 arrives after a double fault on the Tsurenko’s service. It’s a tad painful to watch.
And Barty takes the first set 6-0, about as easily as is possible to imagine. Tsurenko is having a nightmare and is halfway to defeat in just 24 minutes.
Tsurenko’s serve is letting her down and 4-0 to Barty arrives quickly. 5-0 comes almost as fast, only for a winner to be missed. “Out” screams the line judge, in an officious female voice that has a tinge of a warder on Prisoner (Cell Block H). That was on the outside etc etc.
Barty faces a ding-dong on her second service game, with Tsurenko looking dangerous but eventually sees it out after a couple of deuces and some shaky serving. She’s 3-0 up.
Matteo Berrettini had stomach problems during his defeat of Brandon Nakashima, and this was his performance-enhancing drug to get him through a five-set win.
Tsurenko’s serve is speedy but she seems nervous, and overcooks a chance for a winner on the second point before Barty easily sees out a break point to to 2-0 up.
So, Lesia Tsurenko, the Ukrainian, takes on Barty, who is clad in kid that looks a little like that German World Cup 2018 kit that was considered so hip and trendy at the time. There’s some rowdiness in the Rod Laver Arena of the “Aussie Aussie Aussie” variety as Barty serves out for a 1-0 lead in the first set.
G’day, pretty warm reception for Barty from that sadly limited crowd in Melbourne, the biggest star the host nation has in this sport at the moment.
Ash Barty is dancing about in the bowels of Rod Laver Arena, preparing to head out onto court. She’ll be out soon enough.
And on that note, I’ll leave you in the capable hands of John Brewin, who will guide you through the opening stages of the evening session at Melbourne Park.
Serbian players Laslo Djere and Dusan Lajovic have voiced their support for compatriot Novak Djokovic on the opening day of the Australian Open, which has been notable for the absence of the world No 1.
“Not just Serbians, I think the whole world saw it and they probably will have a new or different opinion about Australia,” said Djere, who lost to Denis Shapovalov. “I mean, the guy had the exemption and they still deported him.
“I don’t know the details, so I also don’t want to be too harsh. But what everyone could read, yeah, he’s not vaccinated, but we were told that we can enter the country with an exemption, which he had, and yet he’s not here with us. “Something went horribly wrong. Yeah, it was a true catastrophic situation.”
Lajovic, who will play in the second round after his win over Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics said the way Djokovic had been treated was “terribly wrong”.
“The decision itself was terribly wrong, and also the reason why they did it is also for me terribly wrong because based just an idea, I don’t think it’s the right way.
“I hope that in the future he will be the best tennis player in history and that this will be only looked at as a setback on his path to be the best tennis player to ever play the sport.”
The all-American clash between 2020 winner Sofia Kenin - her only grand slam success to date - and Madison Keys is under way on John Cain Arena. It’s on serve so far in the first set, with Keys holding a 3-2 lead.
The evening session is not far off now - play is scheduled to start at 7pm local - that’s about 10 minutes away - with Ashe Barty headlining on Rod Laver Arena in the world No 1’s opener against Lesia Tsurenko. Stick with us for that one.
Another tidbit from Naomi Osaka’s presser and more insight into her new, fun outlook, notably on that botched overhead that might at one point have weighed heavily on the Japanese player. Today, she was able to laugh it off.
“I just feel like there are situations where I previously would get upset but at this point in my life I’m here because I want to be here and because I find that it’s fun for me. I think just to be playing on Rod Laver and to have such a good streak on it is something I could be proud of and something I enjoy.
“I can’t expect myself to win every match, but I do expect myself to have fun and challenge myself.”
Local hopes that Thanasi Kokkinakis might play Nadal in the second round have been tempered after the Australian lost the opening set in his match against Yannick Hanfmann. The wild card trails the qualifier 6-2, 1-0.
A little more on Nadal’s win earlier.
Hubert Hurkacz, the 10th seed, brings to an end a humdinger over on John Cain Arena against Egor Gerasimov. It goes four sets and 3 hours 12 minutes before the Pole is able to see off his dogged opponent, 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-3.
Coco Gauff is out of the Open! What a victory for Qiang Wang, who completes a 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 18th seed. Pat Cash, Qiang’s coach, is pictured celebrating in the stands of Margaret Court Arena as his charge books her place in the second round.
Local favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis is under way in his opening match against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann - this one promises to be one to watch, not least because it’s the boisterous Court Three that is playing host.
Coco Gauff, the 18th seed, is in real trouble against Qiang Wang. The American is a set and 5-0 down to the Chinese world No 112. This is either going to be a very disappointing trip for Gauff, or one of the most incredible comebacks of all time. She manages to break back and pull back to 6-4, 5-1, but Qiang remains just one game away from the match.
One of the biggest stories of the day at Melbourne Park is undoubtedly that of Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic who earlier upset No 30 seed Lloyd Harris in front of a boisterous local crowd.
The 25-year-old needed nearly three hours to post a famous 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (3) win to delight the home crowd who had flocked to Court Three to support him.
“It was one of the loudest atmospheres I’ve ever seen to be honest and it was all for me, all for the Aussies,” said Vukic. “I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s a dream for sure.”
Vukic now plays Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot, with third seed Alex Zverev potentially awaiting in the third round.
But it was disappointment for another Australian, world No 49 James Duckworth, who led two sets to one but ultimately lost 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 loss to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
And in the women’s draw, Naomi Osaka knows the identity of her next opponent after Madison Brengle moved past Dayana Yastremska, who retired from their clash with the American on the cusp of victory. Another American, Coco Gauff, the 18th seed, is under way against Chinese qualifier Qiang Wang. And twice former champion, Vika Azarenka, is also through, having just won match point to secure a 6-3, 6-1 win over Panna Udvardy.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini made a slow start before finding his rhythm to get past unseeded Brandon Nakashima of the US 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-3 . Poland’s 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz needed just three sets to beat Egor Gerasimov of Belarus and move through. Karen Khachanov, the 28th seed, joined the pair in the second round after beating Denis Kudla in four sets.
Okey dokey, that’s Rod Laver Arena action done and dusted for the opening daytime session. Next up, it’s Ash Barty in the first match of the night session, starting in a tick under two hours.
So, let’s get up to speed with what’s been happening elsewhere at Melbourne Park while we’ve been focused on Nadal.
First up, a big shock for Britain’s No 1 and men’s 12th seed Cam Norrie, who has been dumped out of the tournament by Sebastian Korda, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4. Both players had tested positive for Covid in the build-up but the up-and-coming American was too sharp for Norrie and needed just one hour 42 minutes to advance.
And finally on his potential second-round opponent, Thanasi Kokkinakis:
“He always have been a fantastic player. He have been very unlucky with aloft injuries. I am really happy to see him back at very, very high level, probably playing better than ever. So, if that happens gonna be a big challenge for me, but that’s why I’m here, just to face the best players and Thanasi with this amazing start of the year with semi-finals and title, it is today, going to be a big test. I hope to be ready for it and just enjoy to play here one more time.”
And on how a recent bout of Covid has impacted him:
“I don’t know. I don’t know if sometimes you are a little more tighter because of it or because I haven’t been on the tour for the last six months. It’s difficult to know exactly, but yeah, the symptoms haven’t been nice. I have been four days in bed and then three more days destroyed physically, you know. But after that I started to feel ail little bit better. I was... I had PCR negative after the ninth or tenth day and then I had one or two practices at home and then I game here.”
More from Nadal, when asked by Jim Courier about how close he is to his best level:
“Well, it’s difficult to think about it now, but, you never know. As I say a lot of times, when could you comeback from injuries that, unfortunately I know about it very well, things are always difficult and you need to go day by day. You need to accept the mistakes. You need to forgive yourself when the things are not going the proper way, because that’s the only way. You know at the beginning the things are going to be difficult. Of course, you will not have the best feelings sometimes on court, but staying positive, playing with the right energy and, of course, being on the tour, practising with the guys and winning matches, for sure, helps and last week had been important for me. I won three matches. I won a title. It’s always beautiful and I think I am doing better and better.”
Let’s hear from Nadal before we go around the grounds for a day one update.
“Yeah, been very challenging months. Not only the last six months, obviously have been tough being outside of the competition but since the first lockdown in 2020.
“Everybody knows I have important injury in my foot since the beginning of my career but I was able to manage or or less well but is through that... After that two months being at home, when I came back, I been very challenging since that. I was able to play at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, but honestly have been, yeah, very tough moments, of course with a lot of doubt and still doubt, but here I am and I can’t be happier, to be back here in Australia in this amazing stadium, it’s just fantastic for me. It means a lot.”
Game, set and match Nadal!
Giron 1-6, 4-6, 2-6 Nadal Nadal digs himself out of a little hole he makes for himself with a sloppy overhead volley that sees him fall to 0-30 before he is forced to save break point with a thunderbolt ace. But dig he does and progress to the second round he does, in straight sets, and in pretty comfortable fashion.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 4-6, 2-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Nadal hits a peach of a forehand down the line to kick things off before both players have the crowd in raptures as each keeps the point alive with various displays of athleticism. Rafa is called out on the next two points allowing Giron to hang in there - for now. Nadal will serve for the match.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 4-6, 1-5 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal in a hurry. He holds serve to love and this one’s over shortly.
Meanwhile, more Djokovic-dodging from a post-match press conference, this time from Naomi Osaka (expertly done, in my opinion):
Question: Do you believe Djokovic should be playing at the Australian OPen this year?
Osaka: Is my opinion going to help anything?
Question: Asking what othere players think of the situation.
Osaka: Yeah, I’ll kind of pass on that. Thanks, though.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 4-6, 1-4 Nadal* (*denotes next server) At the receiving end, Nadal is shrouded in shadow until he emerges into the sunshine with menace, more often than not with a booming forehand return. Giron gets back into the game after falling 0-30 down with a thrilling point, but he can’t sustain the comeback and Nadal breaks yet again. He’s now just two games away from the match.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 4-6, 1-3 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal is in total control still, even if a fantastic Giron forehand winner at 40-0 up elicits a “bravo” from the Spaniard. Another service game collected.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 4-6, 1-2 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Giron faces a mountain to climb here now, but this is better from the American. He was in danger of being blown away but he digs in to hold serve. It’s not as simple as Nadal’s last hold, but it’s a hold nevertheless.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 4-6, 0-2 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal appears to wants this one over with as quickly as possible. He races through his next service game, firing down two aces and winning it to love.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 4-6, 0-1 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Nadal emerges from the sheds after a quick costume change at the break box fresh and raring to go. And he continues where he left off, breaking in the first game of the third set to seize an early advantage.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 4-6 Nadal (*denotes next server) Serving for the second set, Nadal errs with a double fault to open. But there will be no stopping the sixth seed and he roars to a two-set lead. He wraps it up in 49 minutes and from here it appears to be a matter of how long Giron can delay the inevitable.
Injury news: women’s third seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia has withdrawn from the tournament with a back injury. Her place in the draw has gone to Irina Bara, who takes on Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 4-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server) There it is again, Nadal’s forehand. Giron makes a crucial error - he drops it short and Nadal is allowed to weigh up his shot before whipping another winner back past his opponent. That brings up the first of two set points which, credit to Giron, are both saved. The game goes to four deuces in total and Nadal has another two set points - both of which are also wasted, to the disappointment of the Spaniard, who shakes his head - before Giron holds serve in what proves to be a mammoth game. Hanging tough.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 3-5 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal wobbles slightly this game but he can always rely on his forehand - at 40-30 he just opens up his body and whips another winner into the corner of the court, leaving Giron little to no chance of reaching the ball, let alone returning it.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 3-4 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Back to current events on Rod Laver and Giron is still in this second set after another service hold.
Day two order of play released
Third seed Garbine Mugaruza kicks off things on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday with men’s second seed and the highest seeded player remaining in the tournament, Daniil Medvedev, to open his campaign during the day session. In the evening, women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka and Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded four, grace centre court.
Alex de Minaur and Emma Radacanu headline what looks to be an entertaining evening on Margaret Court Arena, while an Andy Murray-Nick Kyrgios double-header is not to be missed on John Cain Arena.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 2-4 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal holds to love in double-quick time. Tuesday’s order of play has been released....
Second set: Giron 1-6, 2-3 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Giron’s serve continues to fire and he lands his second ace of the day. The American’s not going anywhere just yet.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 1-3 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal responds immediately a pair of aces, which wouldn’t get you much in a card game, but is worth a 30-0 lead here. He somewhat spoils that opening with a double fault, but he gets back on track to hold again.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 1-2 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Excellent love service game from Giron here, including a simply brilliant final point in which he keeps his hopes alive with a gutsy reach that he has no right to get, before unleashing a stunning backhand winner. The American takes the game to love and he should take some confidence from that.
Second set: *Giron 1-6, 0-2 Nadal (*denotes next server) Bounce, bounce, bounce, pull, tuck, tuck, wipe, wipe, bounce, bounce, serve. Nadal goes through the motions each point, as Giron manages to force the game to a deuce and then to a break point - his first of the day. He’s out though and he’s not going to get another chance from Nadal this game. Some wonderfully soft hands at the net from the sixth seed brings up game point soon after and when Giron’s sliced backhand finds the net, that’s that.
Second set: Giron 1-6, 0-1 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Nadal is motoring. He’s moving very well and at the moment Giron doesn’t have much of an answer. Nadal picks up in the first game of the second set where he left off in the first and he breaks at the first time of asking to claim an early advantage.
First set: *Giron 1-6 Nadal (*denotes next server) It takes Nadal just 24 minutes to safely tuck the opening set into his back pocket. Ominous stuff from the Spaniard. Eight winners to Giron’s three, 27 total points won to the American’s 10.
First set: Giron 1-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Giron finds himself in trouble now as Nadal literally and figuratively begins to flex his muscles. The former world No 1 secures a double break, sealing the game off the back of two terrific winners - the second a classic example of his formidable forehand.
Gael Monfils was asked about Novak Djokovic in his press conference earlier. The French 17th seed was not particularly interested in answering.
Question: What are your thoughts on how the whole Djokovic situation unfolded?
Monfils: To be honest, I just think about the tournament now.
Question: What about the opportunity that his absence creates for other players?
Monfils: To be honest, it’s great for you guys. I don’t know. I don’t see any opportunity. You have opportunity to play a match after each win. I don’t know where he was in the draw, who got the opportunities or whatever. You know me, I’m just happy to have another opportunity to win another match, maybe go to another third one in the Australian Open.
First set: *Giron 1-4 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal consolidates that break with ease. No dramas at all for the sixth seed.
First set: Giron 1-3 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Giron is holding his own this game as he takes a 40-15 lead, but his concentration slips and when he’s long at deuce, Nadal has a great chance to break. Again, Giron probably thinks he’s won the point with an excellent drop volley that has Nadal scrambling, but you just can’t write off the Spaniard and he reaches it before responding with an incredibly deft backhand. The first break of the match goes Nadal’s way!
First set: *Giron 1-2 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal’s familiar serving ticks are in evidence as he collects a second service game, capped with another ace. But Giron shows what he’s capable of midway through the game with a great backhand across the court. On serve.
First set: Giron 1-1 Nadal* (*denotes next server) Giron could be forgiven he’s fashioned a decent point at 30-15 ahead when he has Nadal running across the court and stretching for a ball, but the Spaniard gets there, as he does, and whips one of his classic forehands, as he does, to win the point. The American shrugs off the disappointment and holds anyway.
First set: *Giron 0-1 Nadal (*denotes next server) Nadal opens in style. Ace. Boom. He doesn’t lose a point in the opening exchange. Giron, the 28-year-old, faces a tough examination today, if it needed saying.
Britain’s No 1, Cam Norrie, is also warming up ahead of his match with Sebastian Korda of the US - another one of 60 matches being played across Melbourne Park on day one of the Australian Open.
Australia’s visa cancellation regime has been exposed as “dysfunctional and dangerous” by the Novak Djokovic case, legal experts have said, arguing his expulsion is a “terrible precedent” that could lead to “political and populist” deportations.
The Djokovic case has drawn public attention to the so-called “God powers” held by Australian immigration ministers, granting them extraordinarily broad powers to summarily cancel visas.
Migration law experts say the Djokovic case – his visa was cancelled because the government believed he was a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment” – demonstrates the laws could be used to exclude a person who has previously expressed political views the government did not agree with.
Read the full story here:
Here’s Rafa, into the bright sunshine on Rod Laver Arena. The Spanish great plays Marcos Giron, coming right up.
Rafael Nadal is up next on centre. In the meantime, let’s go around the ground, briefly.
Denis Shapovalov, the men’s 14th seed, is through, a winner in four sets over Serbia’s Laslo Djere as is crowd favourite Gael Monfils who breezed past Federico Coria 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. Spanish 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who reached the US Open quarter-finals, beat Chilean qualifier Alejandro Tabilo 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Belarusian Ilya Ivashka has withdrawn from the tournament due to a leg injury and has been replaced by lucky loser Damir Dzumhur, who will play Pablo Andujar on Tuesday.
Osaka is asked what it is about Melbourne that brings the best out in her:
“I’m not sure if it’s the heat. I don’t know, I really like hot conditions. I just feel like whenever I come here everyone is so warm and welcoming... You guys are all very nice. I’m sure that has a really positive effect on me.”
Here’s Osaka, on-court with Jelena Dokic.
“Yeah, definitely always feels special for me to come back here. I played the warm-up tournament before the grand slam a week ago. I have a lot of really good memories here. It just feels really nice to start the year always in this tournament.
“I thought I played really well given the circumstances. I didn’t really have that much information on my opponent. I thought she played amazing. She was fighting for every point. I think that’s a really good quality. I’m sure we’ll see her on this court pretty frequently. Yeah, I’m just overall I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to see everyone in the audience. I’m really glad, and I hope we give you a really good performance.”
Game, set and match Osaka!
Osaka 6-3, 6-3 Osorio The sun is out on Rod Laver Arena as Osaka safely negotiates a tricky opening encounter. The final game is not without its drama as the chair umpire is brought into the match. “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Osaka cries as a fierce Osaka forehand wallops into the chair umpire. “It was hard,” comes the understated reply. She’s OK to continue and it doesn’t take Osaka long to wrap things up. Osorio can only find the net on match point and that’s that.
Second set: Osaka 6-3, 5-3 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Osaka is convincingly winning the unforced error count so far today 27-14. The latest one comes early in this game, but the defending champion still holds and moves to within a game of the second round.
Second set: *Osaka 6-3, 4-3 Osorio (*denotes next server) Yet Osorio is staying in touch and showing a lovely touch at that, with a delicate clip over the net at close quarters that Osaka has no answer to as the Colombian seals this seventh game of the second set.
Second set: Osaka 6-3, 4-2 Osorio* (*denotes next server) I’m not sure if Osaka is enjoying this, but she’s grinding it out and inching closer to victory. Another service game, another game nearer to a place in the second round. Osorio’s intensity has dropped slightly, and she can’t afford that against one of the best players in the world.
Second set: *Osaka 6-3, 3-2 Osorio (*denotes next server) Osorio seals her next service game with an ace to stay on Osaka’s coattails.
Second set: Osaka 6-3, 3-1 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Meanwhile, Osaka confirms that break of serve and opens up a two-game lead.
There’s a big story over on Court Three, where Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic has caused a stunning upset, beating South Africa’s 30th seed Lloyd Harris in four sets. Vukic, 25, is ranked 144 in the world. Not a bad way to make your grand slam debut.
Second set: *Osaka 6-3, 2-1 Osorio (*denotes next server) Osorio is certainly the more vocal of the two out there - she lets out a huge roar after winning the first point here. But silence soon follows as her serve goes a bit skewiff and three straight double fault gift Osaka two break chances. She needs both but gets the job done on the second. The defending champion noses ahead once again.
Second set: Osaka 6-3, 1-1 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Another fist bump here from Osorio. The momentum seems to be with the lower-ranked player as Osaka lands a forehand out and the Colombian draws level at 30-30. Osaka’s forehand again lets her down and she has to dig deep to stave off a break point. That sequence repeats itself - poor Osaka forehand, break point opportunity, good save by Osaka - before the Japanese finally manages to hold her serve. A big hold, that one.
Second set: *Osaka 6-3, 0-1 Osorio (*denotes next server) Osorio’s ascension continues with a relatively comfortable service game. Very much different to her first service game of the opening set. Indeed this is a different match now Osorio has hit her straps.
First set: Osaka 6-3 Osorio* (*denotes next server) “Vamos” is the cry as Osario delivers a beautiful backhand winner to bring up two break point opportunities. She’s pumped here! But both slip by the wayside and an Osaka set point arrives after a booming ace from the Japanese. She takes it - and breathes a sigh of relief. The defending champion was made to work then as Osorio found her feet, but the writing was already on the wall. Osaka takes the first set!
First set: *Osaka 5-3 Osorio (*denotes next server) Osorio has the wind in her sails now - she looks dead and buried on the second point of this game but puts the pressure on Osaka’s overhead volley again and somehow wins the point. She builds on that to hold serve and you get the sense she’s settling into life on Rod Laver Arena now. Quick note on Osaka’s overhead game - it’s not been great so far.
First set: Osaka 5-2 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Well, look at this. At 30-30, Osaka completely misjudges an overhead volley at the net - she affords herself a smile as the absurdity of the eventual shot - and Osorio takes full advantage to bag her second game of the match on the next point.
First set: *Osaka 5-1 Osorio (*denotes next server) A big cheer emanates from the sparsely-populated stands on Rod Laver Arena as Osorio finally gets herself on the scoreboard. Hopefully the Colombian can take some confidence from that - and a couple of errors from Osaka.
First set: Osaka 5-0 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Make that a five-game lead. Absolutely no messing about from Osaka in this quickfire game as she lands another ace on her way. This has been very impressive from the defending champion so far.
First set: *Osaka 4-0 Osorio (*denotes next server) Osorio threatens to trouble the scoreboard but the Colombian is not helped by a double fault that lets Osaka back in at deuce. A couple of points later and Osaka is four games to the good and cruising.
First set: Osaka 3-0 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Osaka’s got her groove on already here. She throws down a first ace of the match before forcing Osario into a couple of errors to open up a three-game lead early on.
First set: *Osaka 2-0 Osorio (*denotes next server) Osaka gives an early indication of her power with a couple of ferocious forehand winners early in Osorio’s opening service game. The Colombian doesn’t really recover and Osaka claims the first break of the day.
First set: Osaka 1-0 Osorio* (*denotes next server) Osaka’s first serve is wayward, but she finds her range pretty soon after that and the Japanese takes the opening game to love. A light smattering of applause from the centre court crowd follows.
OK, here we go then. Osaka will serve first. Play.
Ranked 50 in the world, the up-and-coming Camila Osorio faces a big test of her credentials today. The 20-year-old, who is yet to win a WTA title, is making her Australian Open debut and would probably prefer to be facing a different opponent. But here she is. Both players are now out on court, warming up, and we’ll be under way soon enough.
The Djoko-tracker is up and running.
So, all eyes turn to four-time grand slam winner and defending champion Naomi Osaka, the world No 14, ranked 13 in Melbourne this year. Osaka is coming off a break from the game for mental health reasons, after the Japanese dramatically pulled out of last year’s French Open in what was one of the biggest stories in sport of 2021. She will kick off the defence of her title in Melbourne against Colombia’s Camila Osorio with something of a new outlook on tennis.
“I just want to feel like every time I step on the court I’m having fun,” she said at the weekend. “I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could. I just feel like for me, I’m the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the ranking and stuff like that.
“And I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again because that’s the reason why I was playing in the first place.”
The pair will be on court shortly.
Maria Sakkari soon follows as the fifth seed wins a second-set tie-breaker to beat Tatjana Maria in one hour and 46 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, 6-4, 7-6(2).
Elina Svitolina is through! The 15th seed from Ukraine advances to the second round with a 6-1, 7-6(4) win over Fiona Ferro. But she’s not the first to book a place in the next round - Camila Giorgi has that honour after the 30th seeded Italian completed a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Anastasia Potapova on court six. Belinda Bencic is also through, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Kristina Mladenovic.
Hype travels fast. A relatively full crowd on Court 7 has been getting its first glimpse of Carlos Alcaraz in his second Australian Open main draw appearance. The 18-year-old had an incredible breakout year in 2021, reaching the US Open quarter-final and ending the season by winning the Next Gen ATP Finals. His movement, intensity and weight of shot off both wings are all already top quality and it also looks like he has bulked up a little in the off-season. Clearly one to watch this year in Australia.
The fifth seed, Maria Sakkari, is being made to work by the other Maria, Tatjana Maria, on Rod Laver Arena, where the Greek has just held serve to level at 5-5 in the second set. Now would be a handy time for her to break serve. Reminder: Naomi Osaka is up next on centre court.
Here’s more as promised earlier on the Australian prime minister’s commentary on Djokovic, courtesy of our foreign affairs and defence correspondent Daniel Hurst.
Novak Djokovic was deported because he tried to breach entry rules at the border, even though the immigration minister did not dispute the tennis star’s belief he had a valid medical exemption.
The Serbian tennis player boarded an Emirates flight from Melbourne to Dubai on Sunday night, hours after the full federal court upheld the minister’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
Morrison said on Monday the world men’s No 1 had failed to comply with “the rules”, that to enter Australia that “you either have to be vaccinated or you have to have a valid medical exemption and show evidence of it.”
“It’s as simple as that,” the prime minister told 2GB radio. “This is about someone who sought to come to Australia and not comply with the entry rules at our border. That’s what this is about.”
Read the full story here:
Around the grounds: Canada’s Denis Shapovalov is a set up against Laslo Djere after winning a tight first set on a tie-break while Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic has just levelled at a set apiece in his clash with South Africa’s 30th seed Lloyd Harris. Quite possibly the biggest cheer of the day so far as the 25-year-old from Sydney won set point there.
Headlining the women’s draw at the moment, Maria Sakkari is a set up but locked at 3-3 in the second against Tatjana Maria of Germany while Elina Svitolina has been pegged back by Fiona Ferro, who is now serving to level at one-set all. Swiss 22nd seed Belinda Bencic is 6-2, 4-2 up against Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.
The distraction of Djokovic in the run-up to the tournament has been wide-reaching. While focus has been on the Serb’s visa issues, it should not be forgotten that Rafa Nadal now has a golden chance to move out on his own as the winner of 21 grand slam titles - ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer, who are also on 20. There are other serious contenders of course - the Big Three no longer has a monopoly on major titles - but with his favourite French Open next up later this year, the next fortnight could well provide Nadal with a chance to steal a march on his long-time rivals. Nadal is up after Osaka on Rod Laver Arena, but not before 2pm local time, against American Marcos Giron, the world No 66.
John O’Malley has emailed with some thoughts on women’s world No 1 Ash Barty. “Interesting she didn’t play Sydney. It was a clever move as there was a really tough draw.” Also what a week out of the spotlight has achieved is that Barty now, perhaps weirdly for a world No 1, is flying somewhat under the radar. That might change once she hits the Rod Laver Arena court in today’s evening session, but her preparations must surely have benefitted. Will be interesting to see what kind of shape she is in tonight.
Over on Margaret Court Arena, Elina Svitolina, the world No 16 and seeded 15 here, is in the mix to become the first player to book a place in the second round after blitzing her opponent and alliteration lovers’ dream Fiona Ferro of France to win the opening set 6-1.
Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison - as indeed pretty much every politician in the country - has been asked about the Djokovic saga today. More on his thoughts in a moment, but for now, in case you missed it (there’s no way you did), here’s a handy timeline of how the whole Djokovic saga panned out:
Just a housekeeping note - we’ll continue to float around the grounds until Naomi Osaka gets onto centre court, at which point expect a game-by-game report.
One of those in early action is Carlos Alcaraz, the exciting 18-year-old Spaniard who despite his talent is definitely NOT the new Rafa Nadal. He’s 3-2 up in the first set in his opener against Chilean qualifier Alejandro Tabilo.
Andrew Benton has emailed in. “What happened to the seedings with no Djokovic, have they been shifted around, or was there no time for that?” Given the ruling to deport the Serb was made after Monday’s order of play was set on Sunday, the seedings have stayed the same - it’s the same men’s draw, just without a top seed (and with lucky loser Salvatore Caruso parachuted into Djokovic’s spot). So Daniil Medvedev remains second seed, Alexander Zverev third and so on.
Fans are filing into Melbourne Park, but we won’t be seeing packed stands at any stage of the tournament - ticket sales were last week capped at 50% due to Victoria’s surge in Omicron cases. All fans attending the tennis will have to wear masks.
Weather update: It’s overcast in Melbourne today, and the mercury is hovering around the 19C mark. Rain is not expected today, or indeed for the rest of the week by the looks of it.
Play is under way at Melbourne Park
Around the ground, first-round matches have started up. Greek fifth seed Maria Sakari is up on Rod Laver, 15th seed Elina Svitolina on Margaret Court and Denis Shapovalov, the men’s 14th seed, on John Caine are among those in action.
On the subject of the veteran former world No 1, Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when it appeared retirement was on the agenda after the hobbling Scot. Since then, he’s risen, phoenix-like, and even reached the final of last week’s Sydney International. There’ll be interest in how he backs up when he takes on Nikoloz Basilashvili in his first-round match (not today). Here’s more from Tumaini Carayol:
As we await the first serve of the tournament, not sure anyone would argue with Andy Murray’s summation of the events over the past few weeks: “It feels everything here happened extremely last-minute and that’s why it became such a mess.”
Novak Djokovic is gone but, would you believe it, the world is still turning and that means finally there is some actual main draw grand slam tennis to talk about. After the most drawn-out, scrutinised and lamentable build-up to a major tennis tournament ever, the familiar tik-tok of tennis balls being hit over a net will finally take over from the relentless stream of Djokovic takes on, um, TikTok and such like. Of course, the shadow cast by the saga very much remains over Melbourne Park, and Djokovic will remain a hot topic for some time to come, but at least the presence of the likes of Naomi Osaka, Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty on court today will help return focus to the actual game of tennis.
Osaka, the reigning Australian Open champion, kicks off her title defence second up on Rod Laver Arena, where play starts today at 11am local time, midnight in the UK and 7pm in New York. The Japanese returns from a mental health break with what should be a straightforward opener against Colombia’s world No. 53 Camila Osorio. Nadal follows, not before 2pm AEDT, against Marcos Giron of the US, as the Spaniard begins his bid to to move out on his own as the winner of 21 grand slams, before women’s world No 1 and home hope Ash Barty gets the evening session under way against Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko. Plus plenty more around the grounds throughout the day, of course.
Right, you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @mike_hytner. Otherwise, strap yourselves in for day one of the year’s opening grand slam.