Spaniard begins his quest for 21st Major with a win over Giron; 2020 champion falls to Keys
Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty made terrific starts to their Australian Open title campaigns on Monday as the Grand Slam moved on from the Novak Djokovic visa saga.
Naomi Osaka launched the defence of her women’s crown with victory but Coco Gauff was an early big-name casualty, the American 17-year-old dumped out in straight sets by Wang Qiang, who is ranked outside the top 100.
The only Australian Open champion in the men’s draw after nine-time winner Djokovic’s deportation, Nadal started his quest to become the first male to win 21 Grand Slams by sweeping aside 66th-ranked Marcos Giron 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
The draw has opened up for the Spanish great with defending champion Djokovic out of the picture and the other member of the ‘Big Three’, Roger Federer, not at Melbourne Park because of injury.
But the 35-year-old Nadal said he was just relieved to be playing tennis after Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated against COVID overshadowed the first Grand Slam of the year right up until the last moment.
The other winners in the men’s draw on day one of the so-called ‘Happy Slam’, where crowds have been capped at 50% because of the pandemic, included seventh seed Matteo Berrettini. The Italian defeated American Brandon Nakashima in four sets despite tummy trouble. Also through was third seed Alexander Zverev, but 12th-seeded Briton Cameron Norrie lost in three sets to Sebastian Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda.
In the women’s draw, top seed and World No. 1 Barty made a real statement of intent, crushing qualifier Lesia Tsurenko in 54 minutes, 6-0, 6-1.
Japan’s former World No. 1 Osaka, the reigning champion, was also largely untroubled with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Colombia’s Camila Osorio. Seeded 13 after a disrupted 2021 in which she said she had suffered “long bouts of depression”, Osaka cruised home in 68 minutes.
Sofia Kenin was the Australian Open champion in 2020, and made it to the final of the French Open, too, that year, when she climbed to a career-high ranking of No. 4.
She’s going to drop a lot closer to No. 100 after a first-round exit at Melbourne Park on Monday. The 11th-seeded Kenin was beaten by 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys 7-6(2), 7-5 in an all-American match-up.
“It’s not easy, but it’s just a number. It doesn’t change who I am. I’m still that person who everyone respects very much,” Kenin said of her WTA ranking status. “Obviously, it’s not the best news… but I don’t have a doubt I can get back there.”
“Just some unforced errors and some forced errors — because Maddy forced them. I was right there. It’s disappointing,” Kenin said.
There was also heartbreak for Tunisian ninth seed Ons Jabeur, who did not even make it onto court and withdrew because of injury before her match. Also out was the 18th-seeded prodigy Gauff, surprisingly losing 6-4, 6-2 to China’s Wang.
First round: Men: 17-Monfils (Fra) bt Coria (Arg) 6-1, 6-1, 6-3; Korda (USA) bt 12-Norrie (GBR) 6-3, 6-0, 6-4; 19-Carreno-Busta (Esp) bt Etcheverry (Arg) 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(2); 7-Berrettini (Ita) bt Nakashima (USA) 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-3; Vukic (Aus) bt 30-Harris (RSA) 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(3); 14-Shapovalov (Can) bt Djere (Srb) 7-6(3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3); 10-Hurkacz (Pol) bt Gerasimov (Blr) 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-3; 6-Nadal (Esp) bt Giron (USA) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2; 3-Zverev (Ger) bt Altmaier (Ger) 7-6(3), 6-1, 7-6(1); Millman (Aus) bt Lopez (Esp) 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5; 23-Opelka (USA) bt Anderson (RSA) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3).
Women: 22-Bencic (Sui) bt Mladenovic (Fra) 6-4, 6-3; 13-Osaka (Jpn) bt Osorio (Col) 6-3, 6-3; 21-Pegula (USA) bt Kalinina (Ukr) 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-5; 28-Kudermetova (Rus) bt Liu (USA) 6-4, 6-4; 5-Sakkari (Gre) bt Maria (Ger) 6-4, 7-6(2); 4-Krejcikova (Cze) bt Petkovic (Ger) 6-2, 6-0; 26-Ostapenko (Lat) bt Schmiedlova (Svk) 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-1; 24-Azarenka (Blr) bt Udvardy (Hun) 6-3, 6-1; 15-Svitolina (Ukr) bt Ferro (Fra) 6-1, 7-6(4); Qiang (Chn) bt 18-Gauff (USA) 6-4, 6-2; Keys (USA) bt 11-Kenin (USA) 7-6(2), 7-5; 1-Barty (Aus) bt Tsurenko (Ukr) 6-0, 6-1; 8-Badosa (Esp) bt Tomljanovic (Aus) 6-4, 6-0.
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