India's campaign in both men's and women's singles event in the Australian Open ended on a sour note with Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza going down fighting in their respective first round matches here on Monday. While, Devvarman went down to Tommy Robredo of Spain at 6-7(4), 3-6 4-6, Sania managed to bag a set before losing 7-5, 3-6, 1-6 to former World No. 1 and winner of seven Grand Slams Justine Henin of Belgium.
Devvarman, who was handed a wildcard after his impressive performance last year, posed some threat to the World No. 52 Robredo, who was once ranked as high as No. 5, but eventually failed to sustain in a contest that lasted two hours and 37 minutes.
On the other hand, the 24-year-old Sania, who booked a berth in the women's singles main draw of the Australian Open only after going through a tough qualifying route, gave Henin a run for her money.
Henin had to draw on her trademark fighting spirit to avoid a disastrous first-round exit from the mega event.
Sania, during her seventh straight Australian Open appearance, came up with some winners and looked almost set to cause an upset.
Having won the first set that lasted an hour, Sania raised hopes of an improbable win but she failed to make any impact in the remaining two sets, allowing the 11th-seeded Belgian to come right back into the game and finally steal the match in a little over two hours.
To work on ranking
Sania said she would spend the next few months working on her ranking to ensure she never had to play qualifiers again, and said the performance against Henin was a huge confidence boost.
“I think this sends out a very big message as to where I stand now as a tennis player again,” she said. Earlier, the gutsy 25-year-old Devvarman, who was making his debut in the Australian Open, tested Robredo in the first set. But the Spaniard then brought all his experience to bear to ultimately prevail with a 7-6 win. Robredo, however, did not have much difficulty in the next two sets.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer fired up the Australian Open with a blistering start to his title defence, bringing some welcome warmth to an unseasonably cool Melbourne Park on opening day.
Federer retained his trademark bandana even though the ease of his 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Slovakian Lukas Lacko and the cool afternoon air made the threat of sweat interfering with his vision slight.
Venus Williams, the women's fourth seed, made a winning return after four months out injured with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Sara Errani of Italy.
Two other women hoping to contend, top seed Caroline Wozniacki and former champion Maria Sharapova, won the first two matches on centre court. Dane Wozniacki recorded a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentine Gisela Dulko, while Sharapova overcame a nervy start to beat Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1, 6-3 for her first Australian Open victory since she won her last Major title here in 2008.
American 18th seed Sam Querrey was the first seeded player to fall and he took his time doing it, losing 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 to Pole Lukasz Kubot. Russian 23rd seed Nikolay Davydenko, three times a quarterfinalist here, also made an early departure with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 defeat at the hands of German Florian Mayer.
Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic powered to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 win over Spain's Marcel Granollers.
Andy Roddick gave a forceful reminder that he once won a Grand Slam — albeit at the U.S. Open in 2003 — with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 rout of Czech Jan Hajek.
Keywords: Australian Open