Where day one of the Australian Open saw the seeds trickle into the second round, some more easily than the others, day two brought about a different set of expectations and excitations.
Amongst the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka taking on the field, there were a few other guys to watch out for – like the crowd favourite and local hero, Bernard Tomic, on whom the Aussie hopes rested after the first day saw the ouster of almost all Australian tennis players.
US Open champion Andy Murray began proceedings in the morning at the Rod Laver Arena against Dutch Robin Haase and in slightly over 90 minutes, wrapped up the match with the loss of just seven games. Apart from the favourite Djokovic who has already displayed a red-hot form this year, starting at the Hopman Cup, all eyes are on Murray who starts a new season with a grand slam title – finally – under his belt. Azarenka, who took the court after Murray in the morning session, too had a pretty comfortable outing against Romanian Niculescu who hardly seemed to trouble her. With a score-line that read 6-1, 6-4, Azarenka seemed to be in full control and right on course to meet Serena Williams in the semi-finals head-on.
However, it remains to be seen as to how fit Serena Williams would be as the tournament progresses, considering the nasty fall she sustained, resulting in her right ankle having to be strapped and taped heavily. Though the American finished off her Romanian opponent clinically, with that being the operative word, the status and extent of her injury does appear to have cast a shadow on her winning chances at the 2013 Australian Open.
Speaking of shadows, Roger Federer – possibly for the first time in many years – didn’t start the tournament as a univocal favourite. Taking on Frenchman Benoit Paire in his very first tournament for the season, the maestro however didn’t face any glitches as he polished off the match with a comfortable 6-2, 6-4,6-1 victory. Other seeds in the top-10, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro too had a breezy first round, with Tsonga seeing off fellow countryman Michael Llodra and the Argentine booting out yet another French player – Adrian Mannarino.
Expected thrilling encounters between German Sabine Lisicki and Dane Caroline Wozniacki, and 2011 grand slam winners Petra Kvitova and Francesca Schiavone got the excitement further pumping even as both seeds – Wozniacki and Kvitova – escaped an early upset in close three-setters. Canadian Milos Raonic, German Philip Kohlschreiber and Nikolay Davydenko were some of the other players who came through in their first rounds unscathed.
The talk of the day however wasn’t provided by these big-wigs. On the contrary, it was a certain 42-year old Japanese woman who gave the crowds something to think about as she upset the 12th-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova comprehensively. For someone who had made her first main draw appearance at Melbourne Park in 17 years, Kimiko Date-Krumm yet again showed the world the meaning of the terms passion and motivation. Apart from Petrova, other upsets included the likes of 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani, who fell to unseeded and tiny Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro; Alex Dolgopolov was bested by comeback Frenchman Gael Monfils; Tommy Haas, who was tamed by Finn Neiminen in a tight five-setter. Last year’s surprise Yaroslava Shvedova, Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova were some of the other seeds who found themselves unceremoniously thrown out of the 2013 Australian Open.
The evening session had some glitz and spark – at least from the sagging Australian perspective as Bernard Tomic took Argentinian Leonardo Mayer in the Rod Laver Arena. The only player to defeat the world no. 1 this year – at the Hopman Cup – Bernard Tomic was at his thorough best. A straight-set victory that saw the 20-year old Australian display some excellent shot-making, the match was also a sign of the hopes that Tomic raises for the future of Australian tennis. In a potential encounter that could see Tomic face-off against Federer in a repeat of last year’s third round match, Tomic’s performance today merits more than a passing glance. Federer could have a fight on his hands if the raring youngster plays like he did today – mixing his shots such that his opponent never really knew how or where the next return would be.
In comparison to the evening’s start, Jarmila Gajdosova let down her country’s hopes as she failed to convert multiple set points in the second and eventually conceded the match to Belgian 20th seed, Yanina Wickmayer. After eight tries to unsuccessfully get through to the second round at the Australian Open, it’s indeed a bit unfortunate that Jarmila Gajdosova’s Australian Open endeavour will have to wait for yet another year. Possibly, the Aussie will emerge stronger, with a better conquest to her name the next time round. Unseeded and unknown Slovakian Jana Cepelova awaits Wickmayer meanwhile in the second round, with a possible clash against Russian Kirilenko on the cards if she advances to the third round.