MELBOURNE: Everyone had the same question when the Australian Open draw was revealed: What were the odds that Coco Gauff and Venus Williams would face each other again in the first round at a Grand Slam tournament?
“I was a bit shocked,” Gauff said, “I’m sure everyone was a bit shocked.”
Gauff, 15, played Venus, 39, to begin her first appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park, just like they matched up to start things off at Wimbledon about six months ago. And, just like at the All England Club, the youngest woman in the field got the better of the oldest woman in the field, with Gauff beating Venus 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 on Monday.
“I definitely was more confident this time. I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd I guess the size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time,” Gauff said. “Definitely a bit more positive coming into this match.”
It was the most anticipated contest of Day 1 at the first major tennis tournament of the decade, and it did not disappoint. The first set, in particular, was intriguing, with Gauff repeatedly pulling ahead, only to have Venus who already had won four of her seven Grand Slam singles trophies by the time her foe was born rebuff her.
It wasn’t until her fourth set point that Gauff finally pulled it out. She quickly grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second and never let that edge go.
The match was held in Margaret Court Arena, one of three stadiums with a retractable roof, and that was a good thing. The air quality was fine, but a heavy storm that arrived in the afternoon suspended nine matches on outside courts in progress and postponed more than 20 others entirely, creating a jam-packed schedule for Tuesday. The start will be a half-hour earlier than usual, and three courts have seven-match programmes.
Among the players who got a chance to play and win were Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, 2019 semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka, 23-time major champion Serena Williams, world number one Ash Barty and 2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki, who is retiring after this tournament.
Djokovic beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to advance to the second round as the Serb looks to win a record-extending eighth title at Melbourne Park.
Third seed Federer also sailed into the second round with a straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson but Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov was shocked 6-3, 6-7 (7-8), 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) by Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
Tsitsipas, seeded sixth, proved too good for 95th-ranked Salvatore Caruso winning 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.
Serena, looking to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, advanced after trouncing Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-3 while Osaka was untroubled by Marie Bouzkova in her 6-2, 6-4 victory.
Barty dropped a set but fought back to beat Lesia Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, keeping alive Australia’s hopes of having a first women’s champion since 1978.
Wozniacki eased past American Kristie Ahn 6-1, 6-3 while Romania’s Sorana Cirstea stunned 32nd seed Barbora Strycova 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) before rain brought a halt to proceedings on the outer courts.
Gauff’s good friend and doubles partner, 18-year-old American qualifier Caty McNally, upset 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia 6-1, 6-4 at night.
Another past champion at Flushing Meadows, Sloane Stephens, bowed out, too, beaten by Zhang Shuai 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Last year’s runner-up Petra Kvitova, seeded seventh, won 12 games in a row to beat fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-0 and set up a meeting with Spain’s Paula Badosa.
Badosa became the first player into the second round with her 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Swedish qualifier Johanna Larsson in just 57 minutes.
In the men’s draw, Grigor Dimitrov surrendered the opening set but rediscovered his best form as he sent down 17 aces and 47 winners to overcome Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4.
Britain’s Dan Evans recovered from two sets down to defeat unseeded American Mackenzie McDonald 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, while Guido Pella, the 22nd seed, ended his three-match losing streak in the first round at Melbourne Park with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win over John-Patrick Smith.
Unseeded American Sam Querrey knocked out 25th seed Borna Coric of Croatia 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and was joined in the second round by eighth seed Matteo Berrettini, who beat Australian wild card Andrew Harris 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 for his first Australian Open win.
Results on Monday (prefix number denotes seeding):
First round: 8-Matteo Berrettini (Italy) bt Andrew Harris (Australia) 6-3, 6-1, 6-3; Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania) bt Roberto Carballes (Spain) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2; Sam Querrey (US) bt 25-Borna Coric (Croatia) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4; 22-Guido Pella (Argentina) bt John-Patrick Smith (Australia) 6-3, 7-5, 6-4; Gregoire Barrere (France) bt Mohamed Safwat (Egypt) 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (7-5); Marton Fucsovics (Hungary) bt 13-Denis Shapovalov (Canada) 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 7-6 (7-3); 18-Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) bt Juan Ignacio Londero (Argentina) 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4; 30-Daniel Evans (Great Britain) bt Mackenzie McDonald (US) 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3; Yoshihito Nishioka (Japan) bt Laslo Djere (Serbia) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1); 3-Roger Federer (Switzerland) bt Steve Johnson (US) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; 6-Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) bt Salvatore Caruso (Italy) 6-0, 6-2, 6-3; Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany) bt Marcos Giron (US) 7-5, 6-1, 6-2; 2-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (Germany) 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
First round: Zhu Lin (China) bt Viktorija Golubic (Switzerland) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (10-5; Julia Georges (Germany) bt Viktoria Kuzmova (Slovakia) 6-1, 6-2; 13-Petra Martic (Croatia) bt Christina McHale (US) 6-3, 6-0; 25-Ekaterina Alexandrova (Russia) bt Jil Teichmann (Switzerland) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic) bt Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-3; Paula Badosa (Spain) bt Johanna Larsson (Sweden) 6-1, 6-0; 7-Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) bt Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) 6-1, 6-0; 3-Naomi Osaka (Japan) bt Marie Bouzkova (Czech Republic) 6-2, 6-4; Zheng Saisai (China) bt Anna Kalinskaya (Russia) 6-3, 6-2; Sorana Cirstea (Romania) bt 32-Barbora Strycova (Czech Republic) 6-2, 7-6 (7-5); Ann Li (US) bt Lizette Cabrera (Australia) 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (12-10); 14-Sofia Kenin (US) bt Martina Trevisan (Italy) 6-2, 6-4; Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) bt Kristie Ahn (US) 6-1, 6-3; Tamara Zidansek (Slovenia) bt Han Na-lae (South Korea) 6-3, 6-3; 8-Serena Williams (US) bt Anastasia Potapova (Russia) 6-0, 6-3; 1-Ashleigh Barty (Australia) bt Lesya Tsurenko (Ukraine) 5-7, 6-1, 6-1; Coco Gauff (US) bt Venus Williams (US) 7-6 (7-5), 6-3; Caty McNally (US) bt Samantha Stosur (Australia) 6-1, 6-4; Zhang Shuai (China) bt 24-Sloane Stephens (US) 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020