Nadal, Medvedev, Rublev win at Australian Open, as Barty makes comeback

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Sydney, Feb. 9, 2021 Spaniard Rafael Nadal made it through to the Australian Open’s second round as he downed Serb Laslo Djere 6-3 6-4 6-1 on Tuesday.

The 20-time grand slam winner had been struggling with a back injury in recent months but it did not appear to hold him back as he powered against number-56-ranked Djere.

“I needed to survive today and that’s what I did. Just tried to be focused all the time, tried to get through,” said Nadal, the 2009 champion at Melbourne Park.

“Here I am to try my best as always. That’s it. Let’s go day by day. Today I was able to find a way to be through. That gives me the chance to have one more day tomorrow,” Nadal added.

Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev have continued their unbeaten summers and will also head to the second round.

Two days after defeating Italy in the ATP teams event, fourth-seeded Medvedev crushed Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2 6-4 while the seventh-seeded Rublev downed German Yannick Hanfmann 6-3 6-3 6-4.

“I didn’t know how I was going to feel physically …… Happy that I managed to finish it fast. Feeling good, let’s see how I go after,” Medvedev said.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist, was sensational to kick off his campaign beating Gilles Simon in straight sets 6-1 6-2 6-1.

A five-set marathon which lasted over four hours took place between Michael Mmoh of the U.S and Viktor Troicki of Serbia, with Mmoh winning 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (3-7) 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.

Debutant Carlos Alcaraz was impressive in his first main court match in a grand slam to defeat Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands 6-1 6-4 6-4.

“I’m very happy to [get] this win today in my first Grand Slam,” he said. “I try to enjoy, to play my game. I enjoyed it. I got the experience. I’m excited to play my second round.”

In the women’s competition, world number one Ash Barty made a perfect Grand Slam comeback with a 6-0 6-0 win over Danka Kovinic and advanced to the second round.

Home favourite Barty has hardly played in the last months.

She had elected to stay in Australia rather than cross the world during the coronavirus to compete in the rearranged tennis schedule at the end of 2020.

This was her first Grand Slam match since her semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park 12 months ago.

“This is what it’s all about, it’s incredible. I felt great out here tonight. To play in front of you guys is a real honour, a privilege, and we’re truly grateful to be here,” she told the crowd at the Rod Laver Arena.

Barty is trying to end a wait of more than 40 years for a home win at the Australian Open since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

“The competitor in me missed what this is all about. It’s coming out here and really enjoying that thrill and the fight,” Barty said.

Defending champion Sofia Kenin made it through to the competition’s second round at the Melbourne slam on Tuesday without much difficulty, defeating Australian Maddison Inglis in straight sets.

The 22-year-old American won 7-5 6-4, eliminating local wildcard Inglis, who Kenin said was “playing well”.

“She’s playing well. I knew it was going to be a tough match. I played her I don’t know how many years ago, but we played at Maureen Connolly, I lost,” Kenin said.

“She’s playing the defending champion. So, of course, she’s more loose. I wasn’t there 100 per cent mentally, but a win is a win and I’ll take it.”

Number four seed Kenin last year became the youngest women’s champion at Melbourne Park since Maria Sharapova in 2008.

Later, two-time Australian Open champion and 12th seed Victoria Azarenka was shocked by American Jessica Pegula 7-5 6-4.

Azarenka, most recently a 2020 US Open finalist, was among the players who were not permitted to leave their hotel rooms at all for two weeks after arriving in Australia.

This was because other passengers aboard their charter flights had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

All players and their entourages had to quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival in Australia, but most competitors were allowed to train for five hours a day.

Garbine Muguruza, whom Kenin defeated in the 2020 Melbourne final, also made it through to the second round in straight sets, beating Russian Margarita Gasparjan 6-4 6-0.

U.S teenage phenomenon Coco Gauff grabbed a convincing 6-3 6-2 win over Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann at the renamed John Cain Arena, formerly Melbourne Arena.

The 16-year-old will next face fifth seed Elina Svitolina, who defeated Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-3 7-6 (7-5) at Rod Laver Arena.

Another rising star, Greek 20th seed Maria Sakkari, was stunned by France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 0-6 6-3.

It was a disappointing result, coming a year after the 25-year-old reached a career-best fourth round in a slam in Melbourne.

Play in Melbourne is taking place with the show courts filled to up to one-third with spectators as local authorities are allowing 30,000 fans to Melbourne Park each day.

Monday’s attendance was 17,922.

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