Serena, Zverev give ominous warning

- Agence France-Presse, MELBOURNE

Jan 16, 2019-

A focused Serena Williams sent an ominous Australian Open warning with a 49-minute first-round demolition on Tuesday as world No 1 Novak Djokovic destroyed his opponent as he targets a record seventh title.

The American giant is bidding to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam crowns on her first return to Melbourne Park since winning in 2017 while eight weeks pregnant. Now 37, she kept a low profile in the lead-up to the first major of the year and came out of the blocks flying against fellow mum Tatjana Maria, pummelling the German 6-0, 6-2. 

Bidding for an eighth Melbourne Park crown, few are betting against Williams despite her lowly seeding and she next faces Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who eased past China’s Peng Shuai. Williams played at the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth this month, but her appearance on Tuesday was her first outing on tour since a meltdown in losing the US Open final to Naomi Osaka. 

Japan’s Osaka overcame a nervous start to ease into the second round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Magda Linette of Poland and set up a clash with Tamara Zidansek of Slovakia in the next round. 

Like Williams, Djokovic is also gunning for a slice of history as he looks to win a seventh title. Fellow six-time champion Roger Federer is aiming for the same. The Serb blasted past American qualifier Mitchell Krueger 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and next plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who he beat in Melbourne to win the first of his 14 Grand Slam in 2008. 

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who is looking to win his first Slam title and establish himself as a serious threat to Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal, cruised past Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. “I’ve had about 86 injuries and the ankle is still a bit swollen,” said the 21-year-old. “But I’ve done everything right in my preparation.”

Canadian Milos Raonic unleashed a “scary” display of ruthless serving to break the hearts of home fans and dismantle an ailing Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4. The Canadian 16th seed blasted into the second round, dropping just 11 points on his own serve against a forlorn Kyrgios, who needed treatment several times on a taped up knee.

But eighth seed Kei Nishikori, who won in Brisbane last week, had a lucky escape. The Japanese star looked down and out against little known qualifier Kamil Majchrzak, losing the first two sets before the Pole began badly cramping. He bravely fought on before calling it a day after winning just two of the next 17 games.

Elsewhere, 12th seeded Italian Fabio Fognini beat Spain’s Jaume Munar, who retired with cramps while two sets down. The 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka also benefited from an opponent pulling out, with Ernests Gulbis calling it quits after hurting his back in the second set. South Korea’s Chung Hyeon, a giantkiller last year when he beat Zverev and Djokovic on the way to the semi-finals, demonstrated his fighting qualities again, coming from two sets down to beat American Bradley Klahn.

Among the women, sixth seed Elina Svitolina easily progressed, as did Williams’ sister Venus, who incredibly played her first Grand Slam tournament 22 years ago. World No 1 Simona Halep battled through with a come-from-behind win over Kaia Kanepi. The Romanian had to dig deep against the woman who defeated her in last year’s US Open first round, eventually winning 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-2 victory. The French Open champion was a finalist at Melbourne Park last year and will be looking for a major improvement to go deep this year after such a shaky start against the world No 71. 

Seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who has made the quarter-finals in her last two appearances in Melbourne, also went through, but 10th seed Darya Kasatkina slumped out to Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky.American Madison Keys, who reached the semis at the French and US Open last year, ensured she too lived to fight another day, crushing local hope Destanee Aiava.

Selected Results

Men’s Singles

N Djokovic (SRB x1) bt M Krueger (USA) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; J Tsonga (FRA) bt M Klizan (SVK) 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5); D Shapovalov (CAN x25) bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3); I Karlovic (CRO) bt H Hurkacz (POL) 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5); K Nishikori (JPN x8) bt K Majchrzak (POL) 3-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-0, 6-2, 3-0 rtd; A Zverev (GER x4) bt A Bedene (SLO) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4; G Simon (FRA x29) bt B Fratangelo (USA) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-2; P Herbert (FRA) bt S Querrey (USA) 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-1; S Wawrinka (SUI) bt E Gulbis (LAT) 3-6, 3-1 rtd; M Raonic (CAN x16) bt N Kyrgios (AUS) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4; 

Women’s Singles

A Cornet (FRA) bt L Arruabarrena (ESP) 6-2, 6-2; V Williams (USA) bt M Buzarnescu (ROU x25) 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-2; C Suarez (ESP x23) bt C Burel (FRA) 7-5, 6-2; D Yastremska (UKR) bt S Stosur (AUS) 7-5, 6-2; E Bouchard (CAN) bt P Shuai (CHN) 6-2, 6-1; S Williams (USA x16) bt T Maria (GER) 6-0, 6-2; J Konta (GBR) bt A Tomljanovic (AUS) 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 7-6 (10/7); G Muguruza (ESP x18) bt Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-2, 6-3; K Pliskova (CZE x7) bt K Muchova (CZE) 6-3, 6-2; L Siegemund (GER) bt V Azarenka (BLR) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-2; M Keys (USA x17) bt D Aiava (AUS) 6-2, 6-2; K Pliskova (CZE) bt A Blinkova (RUS) 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-2; E Svitolina (UKR x6) bt V Golubic (SUI) 6-1, 6-2


Published: 16-01-2019 08:54

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