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Monday, 16 January 2017 14:03 PM GMT
Australian Open Night 1: Federer, Kerber prevail under the lights rounds up the action from the first night session at the 2017 Australian Open... READ MORE

The Australian Open put on a special two-course menu on Monday night and it went down a storm.

For the hors d'oeuvres, the defending women’s champion, Angelique Kerber, came through a few nervy moments to claim her place in round two, failing to convert match point in the second set before winning in three sets against Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine. 

Kerber admitted she’d struggled to close out her match with Tsurenko, who came alive when facing a match point down at a set and 5-4, 40-30 down against the German. But Kerber stayed strong, won the match and afterwards said she was glad to have been tested – just like last year, when she had to save a match point before beating Misaki Doi of Japan.

And then there was the main course. Roger Federer.

There were nerves and jitters – and that was just in the crowd. Federer was back on the big stage, glittering under the lights as he floated into the second round, despite a hiccup in the second set against Austria’s Jurgen Melzer.

Donning pink shoes for what was his first official match since Wimbledon after six months out through injury, Federer claimed a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win, much to the relief of the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

“I think there were definitely some nerves there,” Federer admitted. “I was feeling nervous once the match actually started. I was actually fine all day, warming up, in the warm-up for five minutes with Jurgen. I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row. It was like, whew, it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.

“I think I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm and everything. Then you remind yourself how many times it has not been easy in the first round, almost every time…so you’ve got to work. I'm happy I was made to work today. Actually I'm quite happy how I ended, which is most important.”

Melzer, himself back after shoulder surgery, stunned Federer early on by breaking to lead 4-2 but the Swiss bounced back to take it 7-5 and lead 3-1 in the second.

But as his focus dipped, Melzer took advantage to reel off five straight games and level the match, prompting more than a few worried faces in the crowd.

Federer, though, found his form at the start of the third set and ran away with the third and fourth to advance to a second-round meeting with the young American qualifier, Noah Rubin.

“It's nice speaking to the crowd at the end,” Federer said. “Now being here, feeling like I'm part of this tournament. I wasn't just in the draw. I'm actually making strides. It's a good feeling.”

Marathon man’s great escape

Standing to receive serve from Martin Klizan, trailing 4-3, 40-15 in the final set, the US Open champion Stan Wawrinka - who has now tied Federer on 44 five-set matches, dug deep into his reserves to pull off a fine piece of escapology.

Wawrinka eventually scrambled his way through to round two with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory - and was prepared to go through his opponent if needed...

Kyrgios on message

No one has commanded more chat and hype than Nick Kyrgios again this year, some from those who want to see him succeed and some from others who are waiting for him to combust.

But the 21-year-old looked calm and impressive as he hammered Gastao Elias of Portugal 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in double-quick time. “I think I can win it,” he said, simply.

Genie’s back
And there was a morale-boosting win for Genie Bouchard, a semi-finalist in 2014, as she stormed to a 6-0, 6-4 winner over Louisa Chirico of the United States.

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