Australian Open: Osaka conquers nerves, Halep cruises and Andreescu back in business

By Sports Desk February 08, 2021

Naomi Osaka said she was "really nervous" before facing Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova but showed no signs of that as she breezed into the second round of the Australian Open.

Osaka looked dominant on day one of the first grand slam of the year as she welcomed being able to play in front of a crowd at Melbourne Park, taking only 68 minutes to wrap up a 6-1 6-2 victory.

The US Open champion has beaten Pavlyuchenkova three times in a row after losing when they first met in 2017 but was wary of facing the Russian on Rod Laver Arena.

Third seed Osaka said: "I was really nervous coming into this match. I know that I've played her before, and it was really tough. I just wanted to play well.

"The most recent memory I have of playing her was in the Osaka final [that Osaka won 6-2 6-3 in 2019], so it's always really hard to play someone that good in the first round.

"For me, I feel like it might have also helped in a way because I calmed my nerves because I felt like I couldn't afford to be that nervous. But, yeah, it was a tough match."

Serena Williams and Simona Halep stormed into round two, but the 2016 champion Angelique Kerber crashed out with a 6-0 6-4 defeat to world number 63 Bernarda Pera.

Alison Riske and Wang Qiang were the only other seeds to fall, losing to teenager Anastasia Potapova and qualifier Sara Errani respectively, while Bianca Andreescu made a winning comeback.

 

Williams sisters among major winners to make serene progress

Serena Williams did not look at all troubled by a shoulder problem as she started her latest quest to win a record-equalling 24th major singles title with a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Laura Siegemund.

Her older sister, Venus, also advanced in straight sets, beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2.

Iga Swiatek, the French Open champion, was too good for Arantxa Rus, winning 6-1 6-3, and Petra Kvitova got past Greet Minnen 6-3 6-4.

Kerber will not be claiming a fourth major crown this month after falling to Croatia-born American Pera.

 

Halep planning to oust another Australian

Two-time major winner Halep was a cut above Lizette Cabrera, winning 6-2 6-1 in 59 minutes, and is looking forward to facing another Australia in the second round in the form of Ajla Tomljanovic. 

"I like to be here, so I like to play Australians," Halep quipped.

"I feel good. My body is fit. It's always difficult to play a big hitter. So, I have to be strong on my legs, focus on myself and give my best.

"I expected a tough match because I played against her before and I know how it's gonna be. She's a good opponent, a good player, and I will focus just on myself like I do every time, but I'm ready for a good battle."

Andreescu back in business

Andreescu put her injury woes behind her, battling past Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2 4-6 6-3 in her first match for 15 months.

The Canadian had not played in a grand slam since winning the US Open in 2019 but was back in business on John Cain Arena.

Eighth seed Andreescu said: "After the match, I sat down with my team a little bit, and I'm like, 'Oh, guys, here we go again, those three-setters' and they just started laughing because they obviously knew what they were getting themselves into.

"But those matches are super good for me in my opinion because it really shows that I can scramble when I really need to, or if there's some pressure I can dig my way through it somehow. When my back is against the wall, not only today, but I've noticed throughout my last couple tournaments in 2019, I've been able to pull through with those."

Related items

  • Novak Djokovic to compete at Paris Olympics Novak Djokovic to compete at Paris Olympics

    Novak Djokovic is set to compete in the Olympic Games after being named in Serbia's squad for the tennis tournament.

    The 24-time grand slam champion will target a gold medal for the first time, with his appearance in Paris set to be his fifth at the Olympics.

    Djokovic won a 2008 bronze medal in Beijing after losing to eventual winner Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals before beating James Blake for third place.

    He came fourth at London 2012 after suffering defeats to Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Porto in the final stages and lost early at Rio 2016 before narrowly missing out on a medal in Tokyo three years ago, with Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta getting the better of him to end a historic bid for a Golden Slam.

    Djokovic, 37, said in April that winning an elusive gold medal was a priority for him this year, but there was some uncertainty over his participation after he withdrew from the French Open before his quarter-final match this month through injury.

    The Serbian suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and underwent surgery but now looks to be on track to return to Roland-Garros for the Games, with Dusan Lajovic also selected for Serbia.

    "Team Serbia for Paris 2024 got new representatives," the Serbian Olympic Committee announced. 

    "Tennis players Novak Djokovic and Dusan Lajovic fulfilled the requirements, according to the ATP ranking, and confirmed their performance at the Olympic Games."

    Djokovic's involvement in the men's tournament comes as a boost for the Paris Games after some high-profile female players like Aryna Sabalenka, Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu announced they would not be participating.

    The Olympic tennis tournaments are scheduled to run from July 27 until August 4.

    It is not yet known whether Djokovic will be able to participate at Wimbledon, which takes place before the Olympics.

    Wimbledon begins on July 1 and Djokovic is a seven-time champion at the event, just one title behind the men's singles record held by Roger Federer. 

    Djokovic lost an epic final to Carlos Alcaraz at last year's Wimbledon.

  • Zverev struggles with grass-court transition but overcomes Otte at Halle Open Zverev struggles with grass-court transition but overcomes Otte at Halle Open

    Alexander Zverev avoided a first-round upset at the Halle Open after battling past fellow German Oscar Otte on Tuesday.

    The second seed managed to triumph in his first match since the French Open final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz, eventually winning 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4.

    Zverev has twice reached the show-piece at this event, in 2016 and 2017, though acknowledged challenges remain with adapting from the clay-court surfaces at Roland-Garros.

    "A week ago, I was playing on clay still basically," Zverev said in his on-court interview. "He made it very tough for me, no rhythm at all.

    "That's how grass-court tennis is sometimes and I'm just happy with the win.

    "He did make it extremely difficult for me, so credit to him. I'm obviously happy that I won and hopefully, it's going to be a level above in the next match."

    The world number four is now 35-10 for the season and will look to extend that record when he meets Italy's Lorenzo Sonego in the next round.

    Zverev has won all three head-to-head meetings with Sonego, and will fancy his chances if he delivers another heavy-hitting performance next time out.

    The 27-year-old smashed 54 winners, compared to his 40 unforced errors, to triumph in just over two hours under the OWL Arena roof.

    Stefanos Tsitsipas also began his grass season with victory, defeating home hopeful Henri Squire 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-2).

    The Greek sixth seed will face Luciano Darderi or Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round.

  • Murray celebrates 1,000th ATP match with Queen's triumph over Popyrin Murray celebrates 1,000th ATP match with Queen's triumph over Popyrin

    Andy Murray celebrated his 1,000th match on the ATP Tour with a battling victory over Alexei Popyrin at the Queen's Club Championships on Tuesday.

    The 37-year-old became the fifth active male player to hit quadruple figures for tour-level matches, marking the milestone with a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory to snap a four-match losing streak.

    Murray holds the record for Queen's titles with five and will look to go deep in this tournament once more when he meets Australia's Jordan Thompson in the second round.

    The two-time Wimbledon champion acknowledged the struggles of his lengthy career after this first-round triumph, though suggested he did not know about the landmark moment until just before play.

    "I didn't realise, but my mum told me before the match that this was my 1000th match on the tour," Murray said in his on-court interview.

    "A lot of matches and a lot of wear and tear in the body and it is not easy but I managed to push through."

    Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and Richard Gasquet are the other active men's players to hit the 1,000-match mark.

    That longevity has served well for Murray, who won his first match at the tournament in 2005 and holds a 32-9 record at the ATP 500 grass-court event since.

    "During the match, it is difficult but great reward at the end for the hard work and effort I put into the match," Murray added.

    "I have not got too many wins this year, it has been a difficult season but did well to come through in the end. Held quite a few tight service games and managed to serve it out well."

    Alex de Minaur overcame Murray at Queen's last year en route to the final before losing out to Carlos Alcaraz, who also secured the Wimbledon title after.

    Yet De Minaur will not have the chance to make the showpiece of the Wimbledon warm-up this time around, after losing out to Lorenzo Musetti.

    The Italian swept the second seed aside with a 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory, teeing up a second-round meeting with Brandon Nakashima.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.