Garbine Muguruza joked that she was heading for breakfast after beating Johanna Konta at 03:12 local time in the latest match to start in the history of the Australian Open. 

Muguruza and Konta did not begin their second-round contest until 00:30 in Melbourne on Friday, a combination of rain and a five-set victory for Alexander Zverev over Jeremy Chardy leaving them patiently waiting to make it out onto the court.  

Neither player showed any sign of fatigue in a gripping contest in the early hours on Margaret Court Arena, though, with the 18th seed eventually winning 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 7-5. 

It took two hours and 42 minutes to separate the two-time grand slam champion and Konta, a semi-finalist at the tournament in 2016.

Spaniard Muguruza said in her on-court interview: "I can't believe there are people watching us at 3:15am.

"It was very tough. Johanna played very good, serving incredibly and hitting big shots." 

Asked what she would do after setting up a match with Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky in the next round, she said: "I go to breakfast now."

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka coasted into the third round of the Australian Open, while Simona Halep was again taken to three sets before triumphing and Garbine Muguruza won a marathon encounter.

Seven-time champion Serena made light work of Eugenie Bouchard on Thursday, winning 6-2 6-2 in just 70 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, while Osaka was even quicker in beating Tamara Zidansek 6-2 6-4.

Halep complained about an injury in the second set of her 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 triumph against Sofia Kenin and Karolina Pliskova fought from a set down to beat Madison Brengle 4-6 6-1 6-0.

Muguruza and Johanna Konta did not begin their match until 00:30 local time (13:30 GMT) - the latest start in Australian Open history - and played for two hours and 42 minutes until the former finally won in three sets.

Elina Svitolina, Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Elise Mertens also recorded wins on day four.

 

SPEEDY SERENA

Serena has spent less than two hours on court at Melbourne Park this year, but she does not think winning quickly in the early rounds is important.

"I don't think it's key. I think what's key is just going out there and playing really well, just doing the best that you can do," she said.

Next up for Serena is Dayana Yastremska, who overcame Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 3-6 6-1 to reach the third round in only her second main draw appearance at a major.

 

OSAKA UNCOMFORTABLE IN NEW ROLE

Last season provided a breakout year for Osaka, who claimed her first grand slam title at the US Open.

When told Zidansek said she felt a bit star-struck going up against Osaka, she responded: "I feel old!

"Wow, that's kind of crazy. I don't know. It's weird. For me, when I play Venus or something, I'm star-struck, too. It's a bit weird when you tell me there's someone I'm playing that feels that way."

 

HALEP STRUGGLING THROUGH, MUGURUZA'S MARATHON

Halep's first match – and only one prior to the Australian Open – after returning from a back injury that kept her out from September was a loss to Ashleigh Barty at the Sydney International

Although Kaia Kanepi and Kenin have taken her to three sets at Melbourne Park as she battles with a leg problem she branded "nothing dangerous", she is still confident of competing for the title.

"I can say I had a feeling that even if I didn't have so many matches before the tournament, I have a chance, because the tennis was there, even with Barty. Even if I lost that match, I felt that I played a good level of tennis."

 

Muguruza, meanwhile, celebrated her 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 victory at 3.12am local time and the 35 games in the contest were the most in an Australian Open women's singles draw match.

What next for Muguruza? "I go to breakfast," she wittily said. 

SVITOLINA SQUIRMS

Svitolina had Gael Monfils in her box as she cruised past Kuzmova and let out an awkward laugh when asked about his presence on court.

When quizzed further in a news conference, she said: "We are here for tennis, so that's why it was a bit strange.

"I didn't really expect to be asked that because I just finished my match.

"He's there for me, he's supporting me, and I'm there for him as well. He understands, I understand, what we're going through. It's great."

Simona Halep assured she is not having back trouble again and her leg was the source of discomfort in a second-round win over Sofia Kenin at the Australian Open.

World number one Halep was forced to a decider by Kenin and revealed in her on-court interview following the 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 victory that she was "a little bit injured" in the second set.

The Romanian ended her 2018 season in September due to a back issue but is putting her latest difficulty down to fatigue, having played just one match before heading to Melbourne Park.

Asked for the specifics on the injury, Halep said: "[It's] the leg a little bit, the muscle. In the second set I felt it. But it's because I'm tired. I think it is nothing dangerous. We'll see tomorrow [Friday] morning."

Halep, who will face Venus Williams in the third round, was also forced to three sets in her opening match against Kaia Kanepi and confessed it was "very difficult" to recover.

"That night I couldn't sleep at all. I had pain in my legs. It was tough," she said.

"I knew it was going to be tough because she's hitting so hard. I don't like to play that kind of game.

"But I had one day between, it was great. So today I felt better and I was ready to play another match."

Serena Williams produced a returning masterclass as she maintained her imposing start to the Australian Open with a 6-2 6-2 demolition of Eugenie Bouchard.

A smiling Naomi Osaka referred to an apparent injury scare at the Australian Open as "not that big of a deal" after moving into round three with a straight-sets win over Tamara Zidansek.

World number one Simona Halep survived a stern test in the second round of the Australian Open as she overcame Sofia Kenin 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-4.

Naomi Osaka showed her class and power against Tamara Zidansek as she reached the Australian Open third round.

Caroline Wozniacki's quest for back-to-back Australian Open titles remains on track following her routine second-round victory over Johanna Larsson.

World number one Simona Halep insisted "the results don't matter any more", but nevertheless expressed delight after beating Kaia Kanepi in round one of the Australian Open.

Having brought her 2018 season to a premature end due to a back injury, Halep demonstrated admirable grit and determination in coming from a set and a break down against Kanepi.

The Estonian had beaten Halep in the opening round of last year's US Open, but paid the price for 62 unforced errors on this occasion as the top seed triumphed 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena.

"It was a great match. I think both of us played really well for first round," said Halep in a news conference following her win. "It was a tough draw, but I'm really happy with the victory.

"For sure, it's really important for me, coming not very confident into this tournament. Since Cincinnati, I didn't win a match. It's a nice start, a nice day for me.

"I didn't give up, which was really important. I think that's why I could win the match."

After reaching the top of the world rankings and finally breaking her grand slam duck at the 2018 French Open prior to her injury lay-off, Halep is apparently keen to prioritise enjoyment in Melbourne.

"After these results that I've done, I see things differently," she added.

"I'm trying just to enjoy more and to be happy on court ... nothing else. The results don't matter any more. I just want to improve in myself and also in my game."

Halep is playing her first slam since splitting with long-term coach Darren Cahill, but revealed she had linked up with the Australian in Melbourne.

"It's weird and tough [without Cahill], but he's around," she explained. "He gave me some advice. He came on court with me for some practices. I really thank him for being so close. We are great friends. Even if we are not coach [and] player, we are friends.

"I still felt that he's my coach when he came on court. I didn't feel any difference. He was very open, gave me advice. It's great to have him around. Also it's tough that he's not in my team any more.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. For sure, I need a coach, because at this level you cannot do it alone. I'm just chilling for the moment, and we will see after this tournament."

Simona Halep was forced to battle hard to reach the second round of the Australian Open on a day when many of her rivals enjoyed straightforward wins.

Halep's victory certainly did not come easily, the world number one forced to come from a set and a break down to overcome Kaia Kanepi, the powerful Estonian who beat her in the first round of last year's US Open.

Kanepi's lack of consistency ultimately proved decisive as Halep triumphed 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-2 to claim her first win since August, having missed the latter stages of the 2018 season due to a back injury.

While Halep was pushed by her opponent, the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova all progressed in routine fashion.

Daria Kasatkina, Mihaela Buzarnescu and Dominika Cibulkova were the only seeds to bow out on Tuesday, suffering respective defeats to Timea Bacsinszky, Venus Williams and Zhang Shuai.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka was beaten by Laura Siegemund and cut an emotional figure in her post-match news conference.

 

SERENA STARTS STRONGLY IN FAMILIAR COURT PURSUIT

Seven-time Australian Open champion Williams recorded a ruthless 6-0 6-2 win over Tatjana Maria in her first appearance at Melbourne Park since winning the 2017 women's singles when pregnant.

The 37-year-old is once again seeking to equal Margaret Court's record haul of 24 grand slam singles titles, having fallen agonisingly short with final defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

"I have been going for the record what seems like forever now, so it doesn't feel any different," said Williams of her latest bid to draw level with Court.

Next up for Serena is a meeting with Eugenie Bouchard in round two.

 

KANEPI ERRATIC EN ROUTE TO HALEP DEFEAT

Kanepi produced moments of the highest class against Halep, but also a string of woeful mistakes.

Always aggressive in her approach, the veteran looked set to repeat her US Open victory over Halep when she moved 2-1 up in set two after taking the first in a tie-break.

At that point, Kanepi was firing winner after winner, but she could not maintain her level and finished the contest with a remarkable 62 unforced errors as Halep took the decider with ease.

OSAKA NOT FOCUSED ON NUMBER ONE

Halep's position atop the rankings is under threat, with US Open champion Osaka among a host of players who could end the fortnight as the new world number one.

However, after beating Magda Linette 6-4 6-2, Osaka said: "That's not really my goal. I just want to play well in this tournament. I'll see how my ranking is after. Rankings were never that much of a concern to me."

Osaka will face Tamara Zidansek in round two after the unheralded Slovenian sprung a surprise with victory over home favourite Daria Gavrilova.

"I don't really know who my next opponent is. I've never really seen her play," admitted Osaka. "I think I need to watch a lot of [her] matches tomorrow, just try to figure out what I'm going to do."

 

STRUGGLING AZARENKA DETERMINED TO KEEP FIGHTING

Azarenka broke down in tears in a news conference following her loss to Siegemund, as she reflected on the challenges she is facing after missing much of the last three seasons due to injury, the birth of her first child and a subsequent custody battle.

The women's champion of 2012 and 2013 said: "My confidence level obviously is not there ... it's a struggle at the moment. It's not easy to sit here right now and be positive, but I don't have a choice. You've got to keep going. It's not going to stop me."

Simona Halep pulled off a gutsy comeback to gain revenge over Kaia Kanepi and end her winless streak with a first-round win at the Australian Open.

World number one Halep was beaten in straight sets by Kanepi in round one of last year's US Open before ending her 2018 season prematurely due to a herniated disc in her back.

She came into the year's first grand slam having not won a match since August and was in danger of suffering another defeat when she dropped the first set to the powerful Kanepi.

However, Halep - whose position at the top of the rankings is under threat in Melbourne - dug deep to triumph 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-2 and book a second-round meeting with Sofia Kenin.

Kanepi's power posed Halep no end of problems in an opener that featured an early exchange of breaks, but the Estonian was guilty of making too many unforced errors - a natural consequence of her aggressive approach - and spurned a pair of set points on her opponent's serve when leading 6-5.

The reprieve for the 2018 runner-up proved short-lived as Kanepi dominated the subsequent tie-break to forge ahead.

Seemingly buoyed by that success, Kanepi then raised her level early in set two and broke for a 2-1 lead with the aid of eye-catching winners from each wing.

However, Halep immediately got back on level terms as Kanepi followed up the wildest of forehands with a double fault on break point.

The top seed was digging in impressively, limiting her mistakes as her rival remained erratic, and deservedly levelled the contest by converting a fourth set point as Kanepi served trailing 5-4.

Kanepi then gifted Halep a break in game six of the decider, throwing away a 40-0 lead with five successive unforced errors before taking a medical timeout for treatment on her left hand, and the end was not long in coming thereafter.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Halep [1] bt Kanepi 6-7 [2-7] 6-4 6-2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Halep - 25/19
Kanepi - 40/62

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Halep - 4/0
Kanepi - 4/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Halep - 5/12
Kanepi - 2/4

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Halep - 74
Kanepi - 66

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Halep - 74/59
Kanepi - 64/51

TOTAL POINTS
Halep - 103
Kanepi - 90

An emotional Victoria Azarenka broke down in tears at the end of a news conference following her first-round loss to Laura Siegemund at the Australian Open, after discussing the "struggle" she is facing as she attempts to regain top form.

The women's champion at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013, Azarenka has missed a significant chunk of the past three seasons due to injuries, the birth of her first child and a subsequent custody battle.

After losing in three sets to Siegemund on Tuesday, the former world number one cut a disconsolate figure as she addressed the media and reflected on a "s****y beginning of the season".

When a reporter then asked Azarenka about the resilience she has shown in dealing with a number of challenges in recent years, the 29-year-old wept before fighting back further tears to reply: "I've been through a lot of things in my life and sometimes I wonder why I go through them, but I think they're going to make me stronger.

"I want to believe that and I'm gonna work hard for it. Sometimes I just feel I need a little time and patience and a little support."

Earlier in the news conference, Azarenka said: "I'm playing very good in practice and I've been doing a lot of great things in warm-ups, then in matches I think I'm underestimating [the impact] of not really playing for three years on a high level.

"It's not easy to just, out of nowhere, start playing well. I guess I need to continue to work hard and try to find solutions, but I'm struggling right now to do that.

"My confidence level obviously is not there ... it's a struggle at the moment. It's not easy to sit here right now and be positive, but I don't have a choice. You've got to keep going. It's not going to stop me.

"I have to work hard. I have to find the solutions. It's the beginning of the season; it's a s****y beginning of the season for me, but it's not the end of the year.

"I don't think, sitting here today, I have failed. But I'm struggling. Failing is when you give up and you don't try again, but I'm struggling. So if I'm going to continue to struggle to get out of that, if that's what I have to do, that's what I'm going to do."

Serena Williams may be 16th in the world rankings but the 23-time grand slam champion will always be number one in Eugenie Bouchard's eyes.

Williams made a stunning start at the Australian Open on Tuesday with a 6-0 6-2 victory over Tatjana Maria, only needing 49 minutes to book her spot in round two.

She will meet Bouchard next after the Canadian overcame Peng Shuai in similarly dominant fashion, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist winning 6-2 6-1.

Facing Williams will be "super" exciting for Bouchard, who told a media conference the 37-year-old is a big inspiration for her.

Asked if there was anything she admired about Serena, Bouchard replied: "IF there is anything?"

"Well, it's a long list. I mean, I think she's, you know, the greatest ever.

"So it's just so cool that I'll be able to share the court with her and an opportunity to see how I compare to one of the best players.

"I mean, her ranking is top 20 right now, but to me she's always basically number one.

"I admire obviously the longevity of her career, her dominance over such a long amount of time, how she's come back so many times from injury, pregnancy, et cetera.

"I don't want to talk about it too much and put her on too much of a pedestal because I have to play her in two days, but I love her."

Bouchard has lost both her previous meetings with Williams, the last coming at the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka's long-awaited return to Melbourne did not go according to plan after she was bundled out by Laura Siegemund.

Melbourne Park has been a happy hunting ground for former world number one Azarenka, who won back-to-back Australian Opens in 2012 and 2013.

The Belarusian star, however, missed the 2017 and 2018 tournaments amid a custody battle over her son.

But Azarenka made her first Australian Open appearance since 2016 on Tuesday, though it ended in a 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2 opening-round defeat on Melbourne Arena.

Azarenka, who was broken in a decisive sixth game of the final set, hit 29 winners but 40 unforced errors as she exited the year's first grand slam after two hours, 42 minutes.

Serena Williams has claimed 23 grand slams during an illustrious career but the American superstar ranked Tuesday's Australian Open first-round rout of Tatjana Maria as the "greatest win of my career".

Former world number one and this year's 16th seed Williams flexed her muscles in a 6-0 6-2 demolition of German Maria at Melbourne Park.

Williams was back in Melbourne for the first time since winning the 2017 Australian Open - the 37-year-old skipping last year's event following the birth of her daughter.

And veteran Williams, who is seeking an eighth Australian Open title, revelled in the result afterwards.

"I think the last time I was here I was actually pregnant and playing at the same time," Williams said in her on-court interview.

"It was weird walking out here on my own this time. It is great to be back. That was literally the greatest win of my career."

Williams produced a merciless performance on Rod Laver Arena, sailing through to the second round in just 49 minutes.

She completely overpowered Maria, highlighted by a devastating 18-minute opening set, which yielded nine winners.

Williams also tallied 24 points compared to Maria's five, before her beleaguered opponent managed to snare two games in the second set.

In her post-match news conference, Williams – who refused to comment on last year's infamous meltdown in the US Open final – told reporters: "I didn't make too many unforced errors.

"She's a tricky player. Could have been easily a 6-3, 6-4 match or three-set match. She's been able to beat top players, number one and two, so she knows how to play. I think always when I have a tougher round or I know someone that's really good, I really want to be focused, and then that was really helpful for me today."

Williams unveiled a new eye-catching green bodysuit in Melbourne, where she was also wearing compression stockings.

Asked if she was still worried about the thrombosis issue revealed in 2011, Williams said: "Definitely still concerned. I have had some issues, and they're not done. So, it's just something I just have to do for pretty much probably the rest of my career, we'll see. But I'm always at the doctor.

"With DVTs, it's very scary. I know a lot of people – they're very common. A lot of people have them. Especially for me it's incredibly frightening. I lay on the side of precaution as opposed to not."

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