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Australian Open missives - Day 1

Heather Watson
by Alexandra Willis at Melbourne Park
Monday 14 January 2013

Highlights from on the ground in Melbourne after the first day of Australian Open 2013...

No hanging about
There was no quarter given by either Maria Sharapova or Venus Williams in their opening encounters of the year's first Slam, the pair dropping just a single game between them. Sharapova didn't give the Rod Laver Arena crowd any time at all to settle into the first match of the day, sending home compatriot Olga Puchkova 6-0, 6-0 in 55 minutes. Venus, starting things off on Hisense Arena, took just five minutes more to bid farewell to Galina Voskoboeva 6-1, 6-0. 

Li Na completed her 11th win of 2013 with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Sesil Karatantcheva, while Agnieszka Radwanska survived an early scare against local girl Bojana Bobusic to win 7-5, 6-0.

Novak Djokovic was not quite as emphatic in score, but certainly so in time, taking an hour and 55 minutes to take down Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to get his title defence going, while David Ferrer, the second-highest seed in the top half, rolled over Olivier Rochus in three to considerably less applause.

Killer comeback
Heather Watson.
Trailing Alexandra Cadantu by a set and a break, it looked like the British No.1's wait for a first Australian Open win would go on. But Watson (pictured above) rallied in extraordinary fashion, urged on by a boisterous crowd on Court 13, and came back to triumph 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 after two hours and 24 minutes. Get the girl some water.  

Sigh of relief
For Samantha Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, who won only her second match at Melbourne Park in seven outings as she defeated the tricky Chang Kai-Chen 7-6(3), 6-3.  

The youngster widely regarded as Stosur's successor-in-waiting, Ash Barty, was not quite so lucky. She nipped the first set off Dominika Cibulkova, the 15th seed, 6-3, only for the equally pint-sized Slovak to force her way back to win 3-6, 6-0 6-1. She tweeted afterwards - 'Destroyed. Sorry and thank you.' How's that for personal expectation. 

The home nation's less than perfect day ended with erstwhile warrior Lleyton Hewitt succumbing in three sets to Janko Tipsarevic, despite having chances in all three sets. It was, as he put it, very frustrating. 

Marathon matches
The first day of a Grand Slam can go either way in terms of quick wins and drawn out struggles, and the opening Monday in Melbourne was no different. 

10th seed Nicolas Almagro prevailed 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-2 over American Steve Johnson,  Daniel Gimeno-Traver took five to see off Lukasz Kubot, and, David Goffin, the baby-faced Federer fan, very nearly sent 22nd seed Fernando Verdasco home, losing 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 4-6. Perhaps Fernando should chop his ponytail off. He might make life easier for himself. Mikhail Youzhny took five sets to beat local boy Matthew Ebden, 4-6, 6-7(0), 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-3, and comeback King Brian Baker prevailed in five over Alex Bogomolov Jr. 

Robert Bautista Agut ousted Fabio Fognini over five, John Millman and Tatsuma  Ito battled away over five sets, Radek Stepanek  saw off Viktor Troicki in five, as did Marcos Baghdatis and Albert Ramos, the last match still running at midnight on day 1. Just at about the time that the press room coffee ran out. 

But the five-setter to beat the rest though came between Edouard Roger-Vasselin and birthday boy Ruben Bemelmans, the Frenchman beating the Belgian 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 7-5, 11-9 in a torturous encounter on Court 11. 

The women's equivalent was Alize Cornet's 10-8-in-the-third win over Marina Erakovic. 

The upsets
Golden boy Grigor Dimitrov was expected to do big things on the Plexicushion after reaching his maiden ATP final in Brisbane two weeks ago. But he was a very tame version of himself against Julien Benneteau, losing 4-6, 2-6, 4-6. Benneteau, admittedly, the 32nd seed, is no mug, so it shouldn't have been as much a shock as it was.  

A more proper upset came in the form of 11th seed Juan Monaco's bizarre three-set loss to Andrey Kuznetsova. The Argentine looked crumpled. 

The first women's seed to bid farewell was No.32 Mona Barthel, ousted 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 by Ksenia Pervak.

Cruising through
Those already mentioned, and Ana Ivanovic, Madison Keys, Jerzy Janowicz, Lukas Lacko, Jelena Jankovic, Misaki Doi, Kristyna Pliskova, Stanislas Wawrinka, Jurgen Melzer, Sorana Cirstea, Evgeny Donskoy, Xavier Malisse, Klara Zakopalova, Tomas Berdych, Angelique Kerberm Ekaterina Makaraova, Kirsten Flipkens, Marion Bartoli, Stephanie Foretz Gacon, Valeria Savinykh, Somdev Devvarman, Irina-Camelia Begu, Feliciano Lopez, Lucie Hradecka, and Tobias Kamke all won in straight sets. 

They said..

"Don't want to be wearing a mullet when it's not the 80s…" 

Venus Williams on why Miami needs to upgrade its facilities.  

Crowd interaction
"Best chant so far goes to the Japanese fans on court 6 for Petra Martic v Misaki Doi. "Misaki saki saki. Doi Doi Doi. " Like it."
Nice observation from Judy Murray.  

Coming up on Tuesday

Rod Laver Arena
11am Andy Murray v Robin Haase
FB Victoria Azarenka v Monica Niculescu
FB Benoit Pair v Roger Federer

7pm Bernard Tomic v Leonardo Mayer
FB Yanina Wickmayer v Jarmila Gajdosova

Hisense Arena
11am Caroline Wozniacki v Sabine Lisicki
FB Serena Williams v Edina Gallovits-Hall
FB Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Michael Llodra
FB Juan Martin Del Potro v Adrian Mannarino

Margaret Court Arena
11am Carla Suarez Navarro v Sara Errani
FB Francesca Schiavone v Petra Kvitova
FB Sloane Stephens v Simona Halep
FB Marinko Matosevic v Marin Cilic

7pm Gael Monfils v Alexandr Dolgopolov

Other notables
2nd on Show Court 3 Milos Raonic v Jan Hajek
3rd on Show Court 3 Laura Robson v Melanie Oudin
1st on Court 6 Nadia Petrova v Kimiko Date-Krumm
4th on Court 8 Ivan Dodig v Di Wu
1st on Court 10 Caroline Garcia v Elena Vesnina
3rd on Court 11 Daria Gavrilova v Lauren Davis
3rd on Court 20 Jamie Baker v Lukas Rosol


For all the reports and results from Melbourne Park, visit the Official Australian Open website

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