Serena Williams overcame an ankle injury to shut out her first-round opponent at the Australian Open. Defending women’s champion Victoria Azarenka, Roger Federer and Andy Murray also advanced.
Williams, the No. 3 seed from the U.S., began her quest for a third straight Grand Slam tennis singles title by overpowering Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania 6-0, 6-0 yesterday. The 15-time major champion fell to the court in pain in the first set after her ankle buckled while she ran for a baseline shot.
The 31-year-old Williams, the bookmakers’ favorite to secure the title at Melbourne Park after winning her previous 16 matches, vowed to not let the injury affect her bid for a sixth Australian Open singles championship. Her second-round match is scheduled for Jan. 17, against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.
“Unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing,” Williams said in a news conference. “I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
Men’s No. 3 Murray won his first Grand Slam match as a U.S. Open champion by beating Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-3, 6- 1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena, where second-seeded Federer of Switzerland closed play during the day session with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 victory against France’s Benoit Paire.
“I’m obviously very happy with this first-round match, so total control,” said four-time winner Federer, who didn’t play any warm-up events before Melbourne for the first time since 2008.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic plays Ryan Harrison of the U.S. today in the second round, while Venus Williams faces France’s Alize Cornet. Former champion Maria Sharapova of Russia plays Japan’s Misaki Doi, while 2011 finalist Li Na of China meets Olga Govortsova of Belarus.
Murray, a 25-year-old Briton, is seeking to become the only first-time Grand Slam winner to claim a second title at the next opportunity.
“I’ve often had to look at majors, having lost in finals or having lost in tough semifinals,” Murray, a two-time Australian Open runner-up, told reporters. “It’s nice to have that memory of having won one.”
Federer faces former world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the next round while Murray plays Portugal’s Joao Sousa.
Williams was leading 4-0, 0-15 when she hurt her ankle. She stayed on the court for more than a minute with her hands over her face before being helped to her chair to get treatment from a trainer.
Playing with heavy taping on her right ankle, she only lost one more point in closing out the first set and took the second set in 21 minutes, winning 52 total points to 18 for her opponent, who struck one winner in the match.
“When I was injured, I just thought, just relax,” said Williams. “I just started swinging freely.”
Azarenka of Belarus, who won her only major title 12 months ago in Melbourne, recovered from 0-3 down in the second set to defeat Romania’s Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4.
“The second set was a little bit of a struggle, but I’m glad to still be here,” Azarenka said in a televised courtside interview.
World No. 63 Jamie Hampton upset Urszula Radwanska, the No. 31 seed from Poland, 6-2, 6-4. Hampton, one of 10 Americans ranked inside the top 100 on the women’s tour, also reached the second round last year.
Wu Makes History
Women’s No. 7 seed Sara Errani of Italy earlier became the highest seed to fall so far in the opening round, losing 6-4, 6- 4 to Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Twelfth-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia only won two games against Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm, who at age 42 became the oldest woman to win a singles match in tournament history.
“I’m playing for fun, but I like the game,” Date-Krumm, a former world No. 4 who made her Grand Slam debut at the 1989 French Open when Petrova was seven years old, told reporters. “I don’t want to lose.”
Wu Di, ranked 186th, became the first man from China to play singles in any Grand Slam event since tennis turned professional in 1968. Wu, who earned a wild card spot by winning the Australian Open’s Asian qualifying tournament, lost to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in four sets. China’s men have been upstaged by the women, with the sixth-seeded Li becoming the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles final at the 2011 French Open.
Eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic downed 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy in three sets. Caroline Wozniacki, the 10th seed from Denmark who was the world No. 1 a year ago, fought back from a set and 0-3 down in the third to beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Other women’s seeds to win included No. 29 Sloane Stephens of the U.S. and 14th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia.
American Melanie Oudin, a 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinalist, lost to Britain’s Laura Robson 6-2, 6-3.
Men’s No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina dropped only five games in a straight-set victory against Adrian Mannarino of France. No. 19 Tommy Haas, a double semifinalist from Germany, lost in five sets to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.
Former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic, one of nine Australian men in the singles draw, moved to the second round by beating Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in straight sets. Tomic, ranked 43rd, had warmed up for Melbourne by winning his first Tour title in Sydney last week after struggling with his form last season.
Seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 final at Melbourne Park, beat fellow Frenchman Michael Llodra in straight sets to advance. No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet, No. 14 Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils, all from France, also moved to the next round.
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