The first round of the 2017 Australian Open concluded on Tuesday at Melbourne Park. It was a round that did not feature any major shocks, although Simona Halep did go out in the first round. While her exit is certainly an upset, she did lose in the first round at last year’s Aussie, and she also started the season poorly in Shenzhen. Otherwise other high seeds in the men’s and women’s draws all advanced, albeit with some scares.
Stan Wawrinka had the biggest scare on the men’s side of the draw. Martin Klizan extended the four seed and champion from 2014 to a competitive 5th set. Klizan, who actually took the opening set and grabbed a break in the second, will surely regret not taking an 0-2 lead in the contest against the Swiss. Had Klizan played just a little better, Wawrinka may very well be out of the tournament at this early point in the draw.
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic each faced just mild pressure in their opening matches. However, each top seed was able to match their opponent’s best tennis in testing second sets before closing things out in three. Djokovic next faces veteran Denis Istomin while Murray will face a talented 19-year old Russian in Andrey Rublev. Djokovic’s draw looks safe until the fourth round when he may still face Grigor Dimitrov. Murray could face Sam Querrey in the third round, however, the American is still unproven at Melbourne Park having not won a third-round match despite contesting ten previous Australian Opens.
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Third-seeded Milos Raonic dismissed Germany’s Dustin Brown on Day 2 of the Aussie in straight sets. The Canadian often struggles with injury, so a tidy and efficient opening-round win is definitely a positive occurrence for him. Raonic will face Gilles Muller next, a hot player on tour who won his first ATP title last week. But that same title run may hurt him at the Aussie in the days ahead as Muller should be tired and fairly easy pickings for the three seed. Looking ahead, Raonic is possibly looking at Gilles Simon and Roberto Bautista-Agut in the next two rounds, meaning the Canadian does have a challenge ahead to make the quarters.
On the women’s side Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams, and Agnieszka Radwanska all advanced. The American was the only one who advanced in straight sets as she eliminated Belinda Bencic. The groundstrokes and determination were both there for Williams in the match, but her movement did not seem to be top notch. She has Lucie Safarova up next in what could be a tough one. However, if Williams can get by the Czech player than I like her chances of winning in the third round against what will be an unseeded player.
Karolina Pliskova, the fifth seed at Melbourne Park, remains a player will all kinds of momentum right now. The US Open finalist from 2016 won Brisbane in the first week of the new year. She also trounced Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round 6-2, 6-0 and I don’t see any player on tour wanting a piece of Pliskova right now. In fact, I don’t actually see anyone in her entire quarter posing a serious threat to her at this point and perhaps a Williams/Pliskova semifinal is looming for next week.
The match of the tournament so far is one for the record books. Ivo Karlovic turned a 0-2 set deficit against Horacio Zeballos into the longest match in Australian Open history by game total. Karlovic defeated the Argentine 7-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20.
The 42 games played in the last set is more than enough for an entire match in itself. Don’t expect the 37-year-old Dr. Ivo to play in his next round match against Australian player Andrew Whittington or at least don’t expect Karlovic to play well after the marathon. That section of the draw is wide open for a surprise quarterfinalist, especially since 8th-seeded Dominic Thiem is yet to showcase his best tennis in a hard-court Grand Slam.