MELBOURNE: World number ones Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams showed no mercy in powering through to the Australian Open second round yesterday as unseeded dark horse Victoria Azarenka won her match.
Defending men’s champion Stan Wawrinka, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori and women’s fourth seed Petra Kvitova also went through.
Eighteen-time grand slam winner Williams opened her Melbourne Park account with a decisive 6-0, 6-4 win against Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, laying down the marker to her challengers.
A sixth Australian Open title would take her to clear second on the Grand Slam Open Era winners list behind Steffi Graf’s 22, having joined Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 with her win at the US Open last year.
“If I could get to 19 in Australia that would be beyond amazing, so we’ll see. I have a lot of work to do but I’m just going to enjoy myself,” said the American. Serbian top seed Djokovic, gunning for a fifth Australian title, also found his groove early against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene to post a commanding 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win.
“For a first round performance it was pretty good, obviously I still need to work on a few things, I’m still developing my game,” said Djokovic.
Nishikori, who lost to Marin Cilic in last year’s US Open final and is touted as a future major champion, showed his mettle to beat Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2.
The Spaniard is a former world number nine and the Japanese star said it was a good workout.
“Obviously, it was a really tough first match. He could be a seeded player, and I know he was injured, but still it was a tough match,” said Nishikori.
Azarenka is a two-time Australian Open champion but came into the tournament ranked just 44 after an injury-marred 2014 and a battle with depression.
But she showed why she is regarded as the most dangerous unseeded player as she downed American Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-2 to set up an enticing second round encounter with eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2015.