There were comfortable straight-set wins for multiple Grand Slam champions, including two title contenders in WTA Finals winner Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek, while more seeds fell on Day 2 of this year’s Australian Open. Andy Murray made history after gritting through another five-set battle, while Nick Kyrgios and Emma Raducanu shone in the night session.
ruud withdraws with ankle injury sustained in practice
The tournament’s eighth seed Casper Ruud, whose best Grand Slam performance to date came here last year, won’t have an opportunity to build upon that fourth-round finish this season.
He had to withdraw injured against Andrey Rublev this time last year and again, an injury has sidelined the 23-year-old – withdrawing before his matchup with tricky Slovakian Alex Molcan after revealing he hadn’t recovered from an ankle injury sustained during practice this past week.
He said he “rolled or twisted” his ankle and having tried everything to be ready in time, is aware that he’s not at 100% – so will instead avoid aggravation by resting, heading home to Norway later this week before preparing to play in South America for the clay-court section of 2022.
“I always try to look ahead. Even though it’s a tough decision and tough day today, I’m sure I will find motivation to work hard, get strong and fit again, be ready for some tournaments down in the Golden Swing.”
one frenchwoman after another, for motivated muguruza
Muguruza (#3) bt. Burel 6-3, 6-4
It wasn’t plain sailing throughout, but didn’t need to be, as title challenger Garbine Muguruza punched her ticket into round two with a solid showing against French youngster Clara Burel.
The 20-year-old committed an alarming 12 double-faults in a contest lasting just shy of 90 minutes, which speaks volumes for how this match could’ve gone if she cleaned up her serving.
It’s easier said than done but especially on a stage like this – first on Rod Laver Arena to start the day’s play – 41% first serve percentages are costly against someone of Muguruza’s knowhow.
So it proved. The 28-year-old, who was 1-1 on the year heading into this matchup, gladly seized the initiative after they exchanged breaks of serve midway through the first set. She won six of the next seven games, racing to a set and 4-1 lead at one stage, before a slightly shaky ending.
Burel ultimately saved four match points, but as she mounted a credible second set comeback, the deficit proved insurmountable.
Her compatriot, the experienced Alize Cornet, will look to do better and beat the two-time Major champion in their most recent H2H meeting – Berlin quarter-finals on grass last summer…
Speaking of two-time Grand Slam winners, Simona Halep (#14) was refreshingly pliable en route to a hard-fought 6-4, 6-3 win over Poland’s Magdalena Frech.
After all of her troublesome injuries of late and questions over commitment to long-term success, the 30-year-old was refreshingly pliable and made to move by Frech’s shot defence.
“I was nervous and unsure I could play good tennis. The injuries, last year was rough, my confidence wasn’t very high but I’m trying to play my best tennis every time, try and be better than today.
Great opportunity to play at these courts, always nice to win some matches, that title [Melbourne Summer Set 1] helped – hopefully I can play better day-by-day.”
Halep, a finalist here four years ago, has reached the second week in all but two seasons since 2014 and will play Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia next, who came back from a set down to eventually beat American qualifier Katie Volynets 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
After slow start, savvy Swiatek safely through
Swiatek (#7) bt. Dart (Q) 6-3, 6-0
She hinted at it during her post-match interview on court, that in years gone by she might’ve reacted angrily to some of the mistakes committed in a competitive first set.
But crucially, she got into her striking groove and proved too much for British qualifier Harriet Dart, whose early break in set one proved a false dawn for what was to come.
After a less-than-perfect start where Dart – ranked outside the world’s top 100 – was playing well and certainly holding her own, adjustments were made.
The 2020 French Open champion upped her intensity, frequently got the better of their longer rallies while being comfortable enough to start cracking winners and kissing lines with the same ruthless abandon that has seen her emerge as one of the world’s best players in recent seasons.
The Pole’s playstyle often elicits unforced errors aplenty but she’s able to overpower opponents and makes it look so easy at times, so it works both ways.
She faces Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson next tomorrow, after the 26-year-old avoided a banana skin in the form of hometown wildcard Daria Saville (previously Gavrilova) with a 6-2, 6-3 win earlier today too. Their first meeting? Swiatek dropped just two games (6-1, 6-1) in Paris last year.
Elsewhere in Swiatek’s section…
2022 hasn’t been a good year for Petra Kvitova (#20) just yet and that notion has been compounded by a familiar foe, losing 6-2, 6-2 in 72 minutes against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.
If you cast your mind back to this time last year, the pair faced off in a three-set encounter back then, with the two-time Wimbledon champion suffering another early Major exit.
Australian legend Sam Stosur recovered from a set down to beat fellow wildcard Robin Anderson 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 – prolonging her singles retirement until midweek at the earliest, where she’ll play a familiar face in Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (#10) next.
Armed with a 4-3 H2H record against a player who has improved with age, including two straight wins in their most recent meetings (2018), can she continue this run with the crowd behind her?
How about the Brits? andy murray, raducanu and others feature
After yesterday’s disappointment as Indian Wells titlist Norrie fell early, it was a much more successful day for Britain – albeit not from the off given Dart’s aforementioned loss to Swiatek.
Murray claimed his 49th match win at the tournament, but was pushed hard by a familiar foe in Nikoloz Basilashvili – who he also beat during a similarly competitive test in Sydney last week.
That victory, in the same place he was given a retirement video three years ago, means he overtakes legends Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl for fifth-most victories across the Open Era.
Murray moves up 12 places in the rankings to world no. 101 — and while finding himself on the run more often than he would’ve liked, he responded by producing some defiant trademark defence which has endeared him to fans worldwide over the course of his illustrious career.
Dan Evans (#24) meanwhile earned a stress-free, impressive straight-sets victory of his own (6-4, 6-3, 6-0) against Belgium’s David Goffin, who has been struggling with injury of late and withdrew midway through his Sydney quarter-final vs. Murray on January 13.
He’ll play France’s Arthur Rinderknech – beaten by Thanasi Kokkinakis in the Adelaide final last week – who held his nerve to outlast home favourite Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Heather Watson ended a run of three straight R1 Grand Slam defeats, beating Egypt’s Mayar Sherif 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
The 29-year-old showed great spirit too, rallying back after the emotional rollercoaster that saw her lose a close second set, compounded by a lengthy bathroom break delay from being on one of the outside courts.
Her reward? A second-round clash against a familiar face in Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek (#29), who recovered from adversity to outlast Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. The pair faced off on Jan. 11 in the first-round of the Adelaide 2 tournament, with Watson losing from 6-2 up.
Medvedev vs. broady’s conqueror Kyrgios on Thursday
Bed-ridden, sleeping 17 hours a day and practising in isolation after testing positive for COVID, fan favourite Nick Kyrgios was determined to give his home supporters a show and provided primetime viewing with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win on the John Cain Arena court vs. Liam Broady.
His reward? An eagerly-anticipated clash with reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev on Thursday, after the Russian made light work of his opening match against Henri Laaksonen.
“He’s an amazing player, got doubles tomorrow with Thanasi, great to see him back with the success he’s been having, we’ll see what happens.”
- Kyrgios on the prospect of playing the tournament’s now-highest seed
“I like pressure. Started well here last year so it’s really important, always wanna do better but it’s not going to be easy. The easier you win, the better it is, the more physical bar you’ll have for later rounds.”
- Medvedev reflecting on his Laaksonen win, energy conservation
Broady, who reeled off a trio of tense three-set qualifying wins to get here, relished his chance and produced a spirited display in enemy territory. Or as Kyrgios described it afterwards, something akin to a zoo with rowdy Australian fans lapping up his tricks and showmanship.
Liam’s older sister, Naomi, was on co-commentary duties with BBC Radio 5 Live and said this:
“We’re proud of him as a family, he’s committed himself to another level and hopefully when the coronavirus ranking freeze ends, his ranking goes back to where it should be – top 100 before long.”
Last but not least, US Open champion Emma Raducanu was forced into her first three-set match at a Grand Slam tournament but emerged unscathed, winning 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 against 2017 US Open titlist Sloane Stephens, in a topsy-turvy affair for the latter’s first match of 2022.
It seemed like it would be over rather quickly, with the teenage Brit playing some solid tennis while her American opponent started rather poorly. 17 minutes was all it took for a first-set bagel, with Stephens not applying the trademark power groundstrokes that makes her feared by many.
Naturally after such a high with few unforced errors, Raducanu’s level was going to dip and it did precisely that in set two as Stephens, already down big on the scoreline and with some of the perceived pressure off her shoulders, went for the corners while baiting her into mistakes too.
Armed with a 6-2 set of her own in the bank, they were headed for a decider.
The sluggish manner in which Stephens had started proved costly, because although committed errors aplenty and were nervous in equal measure, Raducanu’s youthful energy – as well as her court coverage – was always going to prove a decisive factor, the longer this match went.
So it proved. She’ll play Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic next in round two, ahead of a possible first meeting with Halep, after the 27-year-old beat Korean qualifier Jang Su-jeong in three sets.
“Thanks for coming out and staying so late, I think both really put everything out there and gave everything we had, a high-quality match with long rallies so I’m happy to have come through against a great champion like her.
Her athleticism is up there, had to work really hard for my points. I’m happy to have regrouped [in set three], the scoreline didn’t really reflect the levels.”
I’ll be producing daily round-ups with the latest results, game reports and news at this year’s Australian Open, so make sure you stay tuned to moandsports.com for the latest coverage.
Picture source: Getty Images