The 2014 Australian Open is off and running and, while there were shock losses for seeds Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova, there were no such problems for tournament favourites Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, who each progressed to the second round with a straight sets victory.
Day 1 Recap
Djokovic was untroubled for the most part as he cruised past Lukas Lacko in 3 sets, as fellow seeds David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Mikhail Youzhny also progressed in straight sets. Stan Wawrinka progressed when his opponent retired due to injury, whilst twelfth seed Tommy Haas was unfortunately forced to retire in his match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Jerzy Janowicz was forced to come from behind to beat Aussie youngster Jordan Thompson in 5 sets, as Tommy Robredo edged past Lukas Rosol 8-6 in the deciding set. In other matches, Ernests Gulbis was too good for Juan Monaco, overcoming the Argentine in 4 sets, and Jeremy Chardy, who enjoyed a fine run in Melbourne last year, had no trouble notching up a straight sets opening round win.
In the women’s tournament, Serena Williams was largely untroubled against rising star Ashleigh Barty, dropping just 3 games. Angelique Kerber rallied past Jarmila Gajdosova, despite suffering a bagel in the second set, whilst other winners on Day 1 included Ana Ivanovic and Sam Stosur. Venus Williams went down in 3 sets to the Russian Makarova, as Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova also tumbled out of the tournament. And, in a bad day for British tennis, Laura Robson was thrashed by Kirsten Flipkens and Heather Watson lost a hard-fought battle with Daniela Hantuchova.
Matches of the Day – Day 2
1. Rafael Nadal vs. Bernard Tomic
World number one Rafael Nadal takes to Rod Laver Arena for his first round match against a talented and tricky opponent in Bernard Tomic. The young Australian, who is sure to have the host nation pulling for him, has performed exceedingly well at Melbourne Park in the past, and will be no pushover for the top seed.
After looking a little rusty in Abu Dhabi following offseason treatment on his knee, Nadal captured the title and some much-needed confidence in Doha and will be looking to claim his second Australian Open in Melbourne. Look for Tomic to try to unsettle Nadal with his varied and off-pace game, whilst the top seed will attempt to overwhelm the Aussie with his brutal forehand. Nadal in 4.
2. Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Maria Sharapova
If Nadal-Tomic is the blockbuster on the men’s side on Day 2, then Mattek-Sands-Sharapova is the equivalent on the women’s side. Third seed Sharapova starts her Australian Open campaign against the enigmatic and unpredictable Mattek-Sands, who isn’t the ideal first round opponent for any of the big names, especially those short on match practice as Sharapova is.
The American is well known for her outrageous fashion choices, but the reality is that Mattek-Sands is a seriously good shot-maker to boot, as evidenced by her upset win over Radwanska in Sydney last week. The American had to pull out of her next match in Sydney with injury concerns, but assuming she is back to full health this match should be a ripper to watch. Sharapova in 3.
3. Andreas Seppi vs. Lleyton Hewitt
Buoyed by his success in claiming the Brisbane International crown, Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt will be looking to savour every last Grand Slam victory as he heads into the twilight of his career, especially those wins which come at his home major. Injury-free and fully fit for the first time in several seasons, the gutsy Aussie is still a superb ball-striker and has the hunger to compete with the best in the world.
Seppi is the seeded player in this encounter, but the Italian has had a poor start to the new season, underperforming at the Hopman Cup in Perth in particular, and will start as the outsider in this clash. Both players play a similar style of game, but Hewitt is executing much better than his opponent at this point in time. Hewitt in 4.
4. Marinko Matosevic vs. Kei Nishikori
Big-serving Aussie Marinko Matosevic has enjoyed some fine form of late, impressing in Brisbane and Sydney in the lead up to the Australian Open. Matosevic doesn’t have the best of records in Grand Slams, but he will be pumped up in front of his home crowd and will have nothing to lose against his higher-ranked opponent.
Nishikori, aided by new assistant coach Michael Chang, was victorious at the Kooyong exhibition event over the weekend and will looking to make an assault on the world’s top 10 in 2014. The Japanese star’s game is well-suited to the hard-courts in operation at Melbourne Park and he could make a deep run at this year’s event. Nishikori in 4.
5. Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Sloane Stephens
American Stephens was one of the surprise stories of the 2013 Australian Open, ousting Serena Williams en route to the semi-finals, where she caused eventual champion Victoria Azarenka some anxious moments. The thirteenth seed seems to bring out her best tennis at the Grand Slams, and she will not want to drop rankings points by losing early in Melbourne this year.
Shvedova is a veteran of the WTA Tour and a very capable all-court player. The Kazakh has enjoyed more success on the doubles circuit than in singles, but if Stephens is off her game then Shvedova will make her pay. Stephens in 3.
Put your house on: Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka to notch opening round wins in a canter over their respective opponents, Aussie James Duckworth and Swede Johanna Larsson.
Upset alert: Andrea Petkovic could cause trouble for Magdalena Rybarikova, seeded 32, whilst Ryan Harrison will be looking to claim the scalp of twenty-fifth seed Gael Monfils.
Likely to go the distance: Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone and twentieth seed Dominika Cibulkova seem set to grind out a long 3-setter on Margaret Court Arena.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.