Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams have near-flawless opening matches
Novak Djokovic didn’t have any trouble in his first match back on Rod Laver Arena since his shirt-ripping victory celebrations last year, starting his bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 win on Monday over Paul-Henri Mathieu.
The top-ranked Djokovic faced only three break points, saving them all, and lifted his tempo when it counted most against Mathieu. Nine others have won back-to-back titles – none have had three in a row since the Open era started in 1968.
“Any achievement, especially if it’s part of history, would mean a lot to me,” Djokovic said. “I think it’s too early, again, to speak eventually about the title because there are many contenders to win this title.”
Sharapova finished her first match of the year in 55 minutes, cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Olga Puchkova to start proceedings on centre court without signs of trouble with her sore right collarbone.
Sharapova has a potential third-round match against Venus Williams, who needed just an hour for her opening 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska won the last nine straight games in her opening 7-5, 6-0 win over Australian wild-card entry Bojana Bobusic 7-5, 6-0 and 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur beat Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan 7-6 (3), 6-3 to end a run of five losses on home soil.
Sixth-seeded Li Na, who lost the Australian Open final before winning the 2011 French Open, had a 6-1, 6-3 win over Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan, while No. 11 Marion Bartoli, No. 18 Julia Gorges of Germany and No. 27 Sorana Cirstea of Romania also advanced. Former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic beat Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-2.
On the men’s side, Tomas Berdych defeated Michael Russell 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain beat American qualifier Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2, No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka beat German qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 and No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan had a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win over Romania’s Victor Hanescu.
Also advancing were No. 22 Fernando Verdasco of Spain, No. 26 Jurgen Melzer of Austria and No. 32 Julien Benneteau of France, who ousted rising Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. AP