Day one — the American Horror story

Nadal celebrates after winning his match against Victor Estrella Burgos on day 1 of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Monday.

Nadal celebrates after winning his match against Victor Estrella Burgos on day 1 of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Reuters


Venus Williams, Stephens, Vandeweghe, Isner and Sock sent packing; no problems for Nadal

Rafael Nadal dispelled any injury worries to storm into the Australian Open second round on Monday as Venus Williams led a slew of seeds out of the tournament on a dark day for American players.

The Spanish World No. 1 was hampered by a knee injury at the tail-end of the 2017 season, and he entered the opening Grand Slam of the year without playing a warm-up event.

But he appeared to move freely in a ruthless 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 demolition of the Dominican Republic’s Victor Estrella Burgos in just 94 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I’m very happy to be back, it’s a very important beginning for me. It’s good news for me,” he said, adding that he had experienced “no problems” with his often troublesome knee during the match.

“I want to enjoy every moment I’m here on this court.”

Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki also comfortably progressed with a straight-set win over Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu as she searches for a maiden Grand Slam crown.

But there was no joy for fifth seed Williams, who was stunned by Swiss star Belinda Bencic, fresh from winning the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer.

Fellow American and US Open champion Sloane Stephens was also sent packing, along with big-hitter CoCo Vandeweghe, the 10th seed and a semifinalist last year.

And the US misery was compounded on the men’s side with eighth seed Jack Sock toppled by Japan’s Yuichi Sugita and 16th-seed John Isner sent home by Australian Matthew Ebden.

Other seeded casualties included South Africa’s 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson, who was bundled out in a five-set thriller by Britain’s Kyle Edmund.

Third seed Grigor Dimitrov survived, as did volatile Australian Nick Kyrgios, who collected a code violation for swearing at the crowd.

Learning curve

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Williams, in her 77th Major, struggled against a player who had never beaten her before to go down 6-3, 7-5 and deprive the tournament of one of its biggest names.

It is the first time since 1997 that there will be neither of the Williams sisters in the second round, with Serena not playing after giving birth to her first child.

“I don’t think I played a bad match. She just played above and beyond,” said the 37-year-old.

Bencic, 20, said featuring with Federer at the Hopman Cup had helped a lot, with the Swiss legend giving her advice and tips.

“I think all the week it was so great learning from him on the court or off the court,” she said, adding she spoke to him briefly after her match and he “was very happy for me”.

Vandeweghe slumped out to Hungary’s Timea Babos 7-6(4), 6-2 and revealed afterwards she had been bedridden with flu for four days.

With Stephens also departing, to China’s Zhang Shuai, it was a calamitous day for the United States, in stark contrast to the last Grand Slam of 2017, when all three of them made the semis at the US Open.

It left the women’s draw more unpredictable than ever, which was good news for French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who saw off Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-4.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 2:07:16 PM |

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