Coco Gauff showed the future is now after vanquishing Venus Williams in straight sets in the first round of the Australian Open.   

American teenager Gauff defied her age yet again, the 15-year-old defeating veteran Williams 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in her Australian Open main-draw debut at a wet Melbourne Park on Monday.

Gauff produced one of 2019's most remarkable results when she beat five-time Wimbledon champion and countrywoman Williams in the first round at the All England Club.

And Gauff repeated the feat again as she eliminated the 39-year-old former world number one – who withdrew from the Adelaide International through injury – after one hour, 37 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

The first-round match was a standout contest after Gauff announced herself at Wimbledon last year.

Gauff raced out to a 2-0 lead against seven-time grand slam champion Williams, who fought back and saved three set points to claim the break back and pull level at 5-5.

Williams battled well to force a tie-break, but Gauff finally closed out the set after the two-time Australian Open runner-up fired a backhand volley into the net.

The 35-minute second set was more straightforward for Gauff, who fired 10 winners to book her spot in the next round against Sorana Cirstea.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Coco Gauff bt Venus Williams 7-6 (7-5) 6-3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Gauff – 17/30
Williams – 25/41

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Gauff – 2/4
Williams – 7/6

BREAK POINTS WON
Gauff – 2/6
Williams – 1/2

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Gauff – 58
Williams – 65

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Gauff – 77/61
Williams – 77/40

TOTAL POINTS
Gauff – 78
Williams – 68

Former world number one Serena Williams said she is thinking about breaking Margaret Court's grand slam record after making a winning start at the Australian Open.

Williams, who is looking to equal Court's record haul of 24 slam trophies, eased past Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-3 in Melbourne on Monday.

The 38-year-old superstar has been stuck on 23 majors since claiming the 2017 Australian Open, following four losing finals at Wimbledon (2018 and 2019) and the US Open (2018 and 2019).

Asked about the looming record, Williams told reporters post-match: "I think it's factored a lot into my game, and now it's just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do.

"Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion. And now how great is Serena Williams? That's it. 

"That's kind of what I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks and months. It definitely helps me relax a lot."

Williams only needed 58 minutes to see off Potapova on Rod Laver Arena, where the seven-time Australian Open champion tallied 24 winners in less than an hour.

"It was good. I felt like I started out really well," the American said. "Played really strong in the first set, and just building on that. I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now."

All eyes have been on Melbourne Park after poor air quality plagued qualifying last week.

Australia has been ravaged by bushfires in recent months, triggering poor air conditions and concerns among players for their welfare ahead of the year's first grand slam.

Australian Open organisers have come under fire after allowing qualifiers to take place on Tuesday, despite a thick haze of smoke, forcing Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic to retire, while Eugenie Bouchard and Bernard Tomic also struggled.

Williams added: "I definitely was concerned, and am. I think it changes every day. There is a lot of factors on how it can change. That is still a concern for, I think, pretty much everyone.

"Every day all the players and the tournament make sure that all the players are updated on what the play conditions would be like. Every single day we get updates. That's been really good to see that the Australian Open take that stance on that. It's literally every day, we are just waiting every day to see how the air quality would be."

Naomi Osaka has found a happy place in Melbourne, saying it was strange how upbeat she was at the Australian Open.

Osaka was too good for Marie Bouzkova 6-2 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena on Monday, beginning her title defence with a comfortable win.

The 22-year-old Japanese star said it was unusual just how happy she was in Victoria's capital.

"For me it's really odd here. I just feel really happy," Osaka told a news conference.

"I don't really have this mentality of defending now. It's really weird. But I'm very thankful for it, because I think if I did go into the match with that, I would have been tense."

Osaka, who faces Zheng Saisai in the second round, revealed her dad watched her from the players' box for the first time at a grand slam during her victory over Bouzkova.

"He's just superstitious. Before when he used to sit in my box I would just look at him and complain a lot, but I have matured over the past three or four years he hasn't sat in my box," she said.

"He was like my coach during Tokyo and Beijing. He was sitting in my box the entire time. He has a good winning streak by sitting in my box."

Serena Williams claimed her 350th grand slam match victory after easing through the Australian Open first round on Monday.

Looking to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 slam titles, American superstar Williams outclassed teenager Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-3.

Williams, who already holds the record for most match wins at majors, celebrated the milestone after just 58 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The 38-year-old - a seven-time Australian Open champion - will face Tamara Zidansek in the second round.

 

Serena Williams produced a brilliant display to power past Anastasia Potapova in the Australian Open first round on Monday.

The American star started her campaign in Melbourne in style, needing just 58 minutes to cruise past Potapova 6-0 6-3.

Williams was in dominant form from the outset on Rod Laver Arena as her bid to join Margaret Court on a record 24 grand slam titles started with an impressive victory.

The 38-year-old is now 19-0 in Australian Open first-round matches, and will face either Tamara Zidansek or Han Na-lae next.

Williams was flawless in the first set, hitting 10 winners and winning the opener in just 19 minutes as Potapova had no answers.

The Russian teenager improved in the second set and even broke for a 2-1 lead before Williams responded.

Williams grabbed a decisive break in the eighth game when Potapova sent a forehand into the net, her victory completed in less than an hour.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Serena Williams [8] bt Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Williams – 24/16
Potapova – 11/17

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Williams – 9/2
Potapova – 4/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 5/6
Potapova – 1/3

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Williams – 61
Potapova – 50

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Williams – 81/45
Potapova – 62/24

TOTAL POINTS
Williams – 58
Potapova – 35

Naomi Osaka started her Australian Open title defence with a straight-sets win over Marie Bouzkova on Monday.

Osaka was too strong for Bouzkova in a 6-2 6-4 win on Rod Laver Arena in the first meeting between the pair.

The Japanese star was the aggressor throughout and her ability to take her chances proved crucial against Czech Bouzkova.

Osaka, 22, has never lost in the opening round in Melbourne and the third seed will face Zheng Saisai next.

The two-time grand slam champion was tested early before breaking in the fifth game of the first set.

Osaka went on a run of five straight games to finish the first set, but Bouzkova found hope by taking a 4-2 lead in the second.

However, Osaka stepped up again, breaking back and winning the last four games to advance.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Naomi Osaka [3] bt Marie Bouzkova 6-2 6-4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 29/28
Bouzkova – 12/13

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 7/2
Bouzkova – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 4/9
Bouzkova – 1/6

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Osaka – 70
Bouzkova – 51

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Osaka – 74/53
Bouzkova – 66/43

TOTAL POINTS
Osaka – 64
Bouzkova – 49

After a quarter-final run at the 2019 Australian Open, a lot has changed for Ashleigh Barty but it is business as usual for the world number one in Melbourne.

Australian star Barty arrives at Melbourne Park for her home grand slam as the WTA Tour's top-ranked player and the reigning French Open and WTA Finals champion.

Barty became the first Australian to win the Roland Garros singles title since Margaret Court in 1973 and the first Australian to claim a major singles title since Sam Stosur's 2011 US Open triumph.

Her memorable 2019 exploits have heightened expectations in Melbourne, where all eyes are on the top seed ahead of her opening match against Lesia Tsurenko.

However, Barty's coach Craig Tyzzer told Omnisport: "There's more expectations on her, but she knows she has to go out there and compete every day, do her best. The result takes care of itself. If she's able to do that and keep focused on that stuff, she'll do some damage."

"The pre-season was pretty strong," Tyzzer said. "Ash put a lot of effort it. She's particularly fussy and a bit of a perfectionist anyway, so it kept her on edge a bit more knowing 'okay well I've got a responsibility here as well'.

"It's been good. We know what's coming but we will treat everything pretty much the same with regard to how we approach her matches."

"Slams are so hard to win over the two weeks, being healthy and playing well all the time," he continued. "Her expectations are that every match is going to be tough. She's pretty ready for the battle, and hopefully she can go deep into the tournament."

Barty is fresh off a 57-13 season on the WTA Tour – a year which yielded four titles from six finals in Miami, Paris, Birmingham and Shenzhen.

The 23-year-old claimed the biggest winner's cheque in tennis history after collecting $4.42million thanks to her WTA Finals victory over Elina Svitolina in November.

"I think her consistent level of play," Tyzzer said when asked about anything specific that helped Barty make such an impact last year. "There weren't many ups or downs. There weren't really super highs or big drop offs. I felt like over the 12 months her level was very consistent.

"There were a few times where she was tired after long periods of time. We could see that kind of stuff coming, so we controlled that fairly well with breaks and then build up again to the next tournament block. Her ability to play at a good level throughout the whole year was probably the biggest factor, I know there were other areas."

Barty's success saw Tyzzer – who has worked with the Queenslander since she returned to the sport in 2016 after a cricket stint – recognised as the WTA Coach of the Year.

But Tyzzer and countrywoman Barty are refusing to stand still in pursuit of further glory.

"There's certainly areas where she can get better. We've been working through the summer on her transitioning, try to get into the net more and get in behind her good shots. She sees it well in doubles but probably doesn't see it as well in singles yet. So that's probably one of the areas I'd like her to spend time on," he added.

"You can never sit still in the sport. If you sort of stop and feel like you've done everything and you're not going to improve then someone else is going to run over the top of you pretty quickly."

"We're doing a lot more work on her strength and speed, movement around the court," Tyzzer said. "Putting in a lot of time on returning, trying to make that better as well. As a coach, you're always looking for improvements, but you also have to acknowledge the good stuff and continue to encourage what she's done well. She's put good results together, so you don't want to make drastic changes just for the sake of changing.  You have to be careful with that stuff too."

The 108th edition of the Australian Open begins on Monday as the world's best tennis players battle it out at the first grand slam of 2020.

Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will return to defend the titles they won last year, adding to the event's storied history.

The pair will face stiff competition from stacked fields in the men's and women's draw as a host of players seek glory in Melbourne.

To whet your appetite for the forthcoming feast of tennis, here is a selection of the best Opta facts related to the Australian Open.

 

- The last three years have seen the 12 women's grand slam tournaments being won by 10 different players; only Simona Halep and Osaka have won twice in that span.

- Djokovic won his seventh Australian Open title in 2019, the most of any male player in the history of the tournament. He has won the event every time he has reached the semi-finals.

- Of the last 14 editions of the Australian Open, 12 have been won by either Djokovic (7) or Roger Federer (5) – Rafael Nadal (2009) and Stan Wawrinka (2014) are the only other winners in that period.

- Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2013), Serena Williams (2009, 2010) and Jennifer Capriati (2001, 2002) are the only women to have won successive titles at the Australian Open since 2000.

- Federer won his sixth Australian Open title in 2018, 14 years after his first win at the event; no player has won multiple Australian Open titles over a longer period in the Open Era. It is his last win in a grand slam tournament to date.

- Since 2005 only Williams (2010, 2015) and Azarenka (2013) have won the title at the Australian Open as the number one ranked player in the world.

- Williams has not won any of the last 11 grand slams, with her last victory coming at the Australian Open in 2017 when she was pregnant – this is the American's longest span without a major title.

- Petra Kvitova lost in the final of the Australian Open last year, the only time she went further than the quarter-finals in her last 19 grand slam appearances, since winning Wimbledon in 2014.

- Either Nadal or Andy Murray has been the runner-up in nine of the last 10 Australian Open men's finals, Murray losing five times and Nadal four. Marin Cilic in 2018 is the only other player to lose an Australian Open final in that span.

- The last time an Australian made it to the men's final at the Australian Open was Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 and the last Australian to win the title was Mark Edmondson in 1976 (against fellow Australian John Newcombe).

Serena Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title begins at the Australian Open on Monday.

The American star will face teenager Anastasia Potapova in the opening round in Melbourne, where she is again among the favourites.

Williams is without a major title since the 2017 Australian Open, but appears well placed to end that wait.

We take a closer look at where Williams is at ahead of the first round.

 

Form and results

Williams did not need long to end another wait in 2020. The 38-year-old claimed the title at the Auckland Open for her first WTA Tour crown since 2017. And it was an impressive run in New Zealand, where she dropped just one set and also thrashed Amanda Anisimova 6-1 6-1 in a semi-final clash.

First up

Her first opponent, Potapova, is in vastly different form, having made a rather mixed start to 2020. The 18-year-old recorded wins in both Brisbane and Adelaide, but failed to qualify for the main draws. Potapova reached a career-high ranking of 64 last year and did beat Angelique Kerber at the French Open. Unsurprisingly, she has never met Williams, and would need a huge turnaround in form to cause a shock.

Draw

Williams should have some time to settle in. Tamara Zidansek or wildcard Han Na-lae potentially await in the second round, while Wang Qiang could be her opponent in the third.

What she said

"It's pretty satisfying just to get a win in the final [in Auckland]. That was really important for me – and I just want to build on it. It's just a step towards the next goal."

The Australian Open should be delayed or postponed if air quality deteriorates and smoke blankets Melbourne, according to Dr Matthew Conron. 

Australia has been ravaged by bushfires in recent months, triggering poor air conditions and concerns among players for their welfare ahead of the year's first grand slam.

Australian Open organisers have come under fire after allowing qualifiers to take place on Tuesday, despite a thick haze of smoke, forcing Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic to retire, while Eugenie Bouchard, Bernard Tomic and Maria Sharapova also struggled.

The main draw gets underway on Monday and all eyes are on the Victorian capital with conditions continuing to fluctuate.

Asked if the slam should go ahead, Conron - Associate Professor and Director of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne - told Omnisport: "From a respiratory physician's point of view, if you had air quality of the type we have seen previously, I'd think the recommendation would be to delay or postpone the tournament until the weather cleared.

"I wouldn't think there'd be risk of long-term damage to your lungs. However, there's certainly a risk of precipitating an asthma attack. For those who have known asthma in particular, they'd be at a significant disadvantage to whose who haven't."

Conron, who helped prepare athletes for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing amid concerns over poor air quality in China, added: "Everyone would be at increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms.

"A lot would get sore throats, a bad and irritating cough and a smaller number would probably get asthma-type symptoms, particularly if they're not adequately controlled.

"If I was to provide advice to players and those wanting to do exercise in those conditions, if possible don't."

Tuesday's conditions were in the "very poor" range. For such weather, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) recommends avoiding being outside and reducing prolonged or heavy physical activity. In some areas of Melbourne and Victoria, conditions were "hazardous". In those conditions, people are urged to close their windows and doors, while keeping physical activity levels as low as possible.

Conron added: "There's athletes who don't know they have asthma or might only have mild asthma and they're not on treatment. For that group of people, there's also the risk of increased symptoms associated with exposure to poor air quality. They might perform worse than they normally perform.

"The other thing is, tennis players are under the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] code. So you can't just treat them with steroids or high doses of inhalers without an adequate diagnosis, because they run the risk of being tested and face a ban.

"At the Australian Open, they would've had to notify WADA they are on medication. For example, if there's someone who doesn't know they have asthma and have an attack - you're allowed to take 16 puffs of Ventolin a day, which doesn't get you over the threshold. Not all inhalers are approved."

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki - who has degrees in physics and maths, biomedical engineering, medicine and surgery - also provided an insight into the conditions that have left tennis players concerned.

"I'd tell them not to do it [play]. The right thing to do would be to cancel the tournament," Kruszelnicki told Omnisport. 

"Sitting at rest, we breathe in maybe five litres of air every minute. But if we're exercising hard, we can get up to 50-70L. So you have these athletes on the court and they're shifting huge amounts of air in their lungs and they're getting acute affects from it. The air is not safe to breathe.

"Our immune system is made stronger by the moderate amount of exercise we do. But when you get to the top-grade athletes, their immune systems go to lunch and they're really fragile.

"These athletes at the tennis and Olympic Games, they're scared of people coming in with influenza. They are pushing their bodies way beyond what's actually healthy, but they want to win a tournament. In terms of the effect of the air pollution on them, they're more at risk than a less highly trained person, because their immune system has been knocked out of whack. 

"They have pushed themselves so hard but they have compromised their immune systems. So they're taking more pollutants in, but their bodies are more fragile. You think they have big muscles and can run around. In that regard they can, but almost certainly, they'd be more fragile. The technical term is an insult - an infection or pollution."

Ash Barty claimed her first title in her native Australia as she defeated Dayana Yastremska in the final of the Adelaide International.

The world number one will start her campaign to add her home grand slam to the French Open title she won in 2019 next week, and will do so in fine form after seeing off one of the most promising players on the WTA Tour.

Nineteen-year-old Yastremska was playing in her first WTA Premier final and it was Barty's experience that won the day in one hour and 26 minutes.

Having twice been a runner-up in the Sydney International, Barty laid those demons to rest with a 6-2 7-5 success that should give her plenty of confidence as she heads to Melbourne Park.

The first set was one dictated by Barty, as she used her nous to work the angles against Yastremska, playing a reigning world number one for the first time in her fledgling career.

Yastremska's unfamiliarity with such a situation was reflected by the 12 unforced errors she made in the first set.

By contrast Barty committed just one unforced error in the opener and was a constant threat to the Yastremska serve.

The Ukrainian's fifth service game saw her fend off three break points before Barty snatched a fourth to take a 1-0 lead in the second set, only to surrender her advantage with a series of errors.

Emboldened by the break back, Yastremska pressured the Barty serve again in the eighth game of the set, but the opportunity to earn a crucial second break was spurned.

Barty was ruthless in punishing Yastremska's profligacy, and won the final 10 points of the match to seal an eighth WTA singles title.

She will face another Ukrainian, Lesia Tsurenko, in the first round of the Australian Open, while Yastremska will be expected to have little trouble against fellow teenager Kaja Juvan.

Elena Rybakina continued her strong start to 2020 by winning the Hobart International title on Saturday.

The Kazakh, 20, proved too good for Zhang Shuai 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 to claim her second WTA Tour crown.

Rybakina is in impressive form to begin the year, having also reached the final in Shenzhen this month.

She delivered in the decider this time, converting all three break points she created on her way to victory in one hour, 33 minutes.

Rybakina will hope to carry her good form into the Australian Open, facing Bernarda Pera in the opening round.

Petra Kvitova admitted she was worried about the air quality in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, particularly as an asthma sufferer.

The year's first grand slam has been impacted by poor air quality in Victoria's capital after bushfires ravaged Australia in recent months.

Organisers have faced criticism during the qualifying rounds, although air quality has been rated as 'good' in Melbourne since Thursday.

Kvitova, who suffers from asthma, said the air was a concern heading into the grand slam.

"I've been a bit worried about it. Now I'm very happy that, as I mentioned, the sky, it's there again clearly," last year's runner-up told a news conference on Saturday.

"Of course everybody knows that I do have asthma problems, which I wasn't really happy about that if the air is still bad.

"It's same for everybody, so it will be really difficult to breathe for sure. I do have my medicines here, as well.

"Yeah, I'm going to use it if it's important."

However, Kvitova – who faces fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova in the first round – backed officials.

"Well, I'm very comfortable with everything they've taken," she said.

Naomi Osaka believes she is not as fearless as last year as she prepares for her Australian Open title defence.

The Japanese star claimed her second grand slam title in Melbourne in 2019, backing up her US Open success from just months prior.

But the 22-year-old, seemingly more aware of what was at stake, said she felt more fearless last year.

"I feel like last year I was young. Last year I feel like I was young. I was just this young kid that was going out. My goal was to win, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me," Osaka told a news conference on Saturday.

"I feel like now I appreciate more every single win because I know what it took to get it.

"Of course, I want to win every match and I want to go out there and do that. That's what I'm here for.

"I think maybe last year I was a little bit more fearless."

Osaka, the world number three, is again among the favourites and faces Marie Bouzkova in her first-round match.

Ashleigh Barty, the world's top-ranked player, is also expected to challenge and Osaka praised the Australian while talking down suggestions of a rivalry with a player she has met three times since the start of 2018.

"It's super weird. People keep asking me questions like we're rivals or something. She's in the finals of Adelaide right now," she said.

"I think obviously she's a great player. She's the number one ranked player in the world. I don't know, we've played really close matches."

Caroline Wozniacki insisted she was calm and just enjoying herself ahead of her final professional tournament at the Australian Open.

Wozniacki will retire after the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, ending a career that saw her win the title in Melbourne in 2018 and hold the top ranking.

The Dane, 29, said she was staying calm so far, but expects there to be emotion once her career is officially over.

"It's not a situation that I've ever been in. It's hard to tell," Wozniacki told a news conference on Saturday when asked if she would stay calm.

"So far I'm calm and just enjoying myself. I have my family here, which is great. I'm sure once the last ball is hit, it's going to be a bit emotional."

Wozniacki will face Kristie Ahn in the opening round in Melbourne, but said her approach had remained unchanged despite the circumstances.

"So far I've just approached it like any other tournament, but obviously it's different since it's my last one," she said.

"I'm just enjoying being out there. I've had some great practice sessions. I've done everything I could to prepare as well as I can for this tournament, then hope for the best."

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