Australian Open 2019, Day 1 Men's Roundup: Federer, Nadal ease through; Murray bows out after battle
The main draw action kicked off today at the first Grand Slam of the season and it were the men placed in the bottom half of the draw that went on court to begin their 2019 Australian Open campaign.
To start the day session, it was the Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson who took on the tricky Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, and it was the South African who came out on top after dropping the second set, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
Anderson took the first set with ease after getting the break in the middle of the set and rode that momentum to get an early break in the second set as well. But then, Mannarino responded and broke Anderson’s serve to level the set at 4-4.
Then at 6-5, the Frenchman broke serve once again with a lot of help from the South African, and leveled the match. Anderson, though, got back his focus quickly and steamrolled Mannarino after that, losing just 3 games in the next two sets, and avoided a five-setter in the opening round here after failing to do so in last year’s US Open.
In the next round, Anderson will face the American Frances Tiafoe, who ended Indian hopes after defeating qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran in straight sets.
Next up, it was Rafael Nadal, who was playing in his first official match since the US Open semi-final last September, as he took on the Australian wild card James Duckworth, and it was the Spaniard who got over the erratic Australian in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5, after a little wobble towards the end.
Duckworth had a very nervous start to the match as he made four unforced errors in the very first game and handed an early break to Nadal. Though he did settle down after that, one break was enough for the world no. 2 to take the first set.
Duckworth’s strategy was pretty clear at that he will simply go for broke at every single shot of the rally and not give the Spaniard any rhythm off the ground. Though he wasn’t able to execute his tactics in the opening set, the Australian did catch fire at the start of the second set as he broke Nadal’s serve straightaway.
But at 2-0, 40-0, Duckworth made a barrage of unforced errors and gave away the break advantage. After that, it was all Nadal for the rest of the set as he won six of the next seven games.
In the third set, it was much of the same as Nadal surged to a break advantage and looked comfortable in finishing the match rather quickly.
But at 3-5 down, Duckworth suddenly found his range once again and broke Nadal to love and got the set back on serve. However, Nadal weathered the storm from the Aussie and broke his serve at 6-5, while he was serving to stay in the contest, and got his first win of the 2019 season.
In the second round, Nadal will face another Australian in Matthew Ebden, who defeated Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in four sets, after dropping the first.
In the evening session, it was the former world #1 Andy Murray who took on the Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut in the most anticipated match of the day, and it was the Spaniard, who came through in an epic five-set battle, 6-4, 6-4, (5)6-7, (4)6-7, 6-2, after leading two sets to love.
Bautista Agut got Murray in trouble in almost every of the Brit’s service game in the opening set, but he missed some routine balls in the crucial moments and so was unable to take any advantage.
But after he saved a break point at 4-4, the Spaniard went into lock-down mode and broke Murray in the very next game and then held his serve comfortably to take the first set.
In the second set, Bautista Agut continued his momentum and this time didn’t blink at any opportunity as he got an early break at 2-2, while on the other end, Murray kept on losing a little bit of his legs after each one of those lengthy rallies, and pretty soon, the Spaniard took a two-set lead.
Things got a little interesting in the third set as Murray, after being an early breakdown, played a brilliant return game at 1-2 to break back and level the set. Then, at 4-4, staring down at another break point, Murray played a couple of incredible points to save that game and in the next game, earned a set point for himself.
But once again, Bautista Agut refused to miss in the most crucial moments and somehow, got through that game and soon, it needed a tiebreaker to separate the two.
In the breaker, Murray took it up a notch and fought for every single shot of every single rally and edged the breaker 7-5 to force a fourth set.
In the fourth set, Murray was still fighting tooth and nail while Bautista Agut was unable to break through the former world no. 1 and yet again, a tiebreaker was needed to separate them.
In the breaker, it was once again Murray who ousted the Spaniard, as he induced errors out of him by varying the pace of the shots nicely, and took the match into a final set.
Onto the fifth set, and Andy Murray just didn’t have anything left in the tank. He kept on fighting and chasing down balls till the very last point, but it was Bautista Agut, who made it through to the second round but not before a herculean effort from the 3-time grand slam and 2-time Olympic champion.
The Spaniard, in the next round, will face the home favorite John Millman, who defeated Federico Delbonis in four sets.
In the final men’s encounter of the day, Roger Federer started his title defense against the man who stopped Djokovic’s title defense in 2017, Denis Istomin, and it was the Swiss, who eased past the Uzbeg in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Federer didn’t have any trouble throughout the match as he got early breaks in all of the three sets and didn’t even face a single break in the whole match, sailing through to the second round.
In his next encounter, the Swiss Maestro will face British qualifier Daniel Evans, who defeated the Japanese qualifier Tatsuma Ito in straight sets.
Earlier in the day, Grigor Dimitrov, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov got through their opening matches in four sets after each of them dropped the first set, while Tomas Berdych dominated last year’s semi-finalist Kyle Edmund, defeating him 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.
2018 finalist Marin Cilic faced a tricky opponent in Bernand Tomic, but the Croat eased past the Aussie in straight sets along with Sydney champion Alex De Minar, who also won his first match in three sets.
In the upset of the day, world no. 10 John Isner was ousted by the former Wimbledon junior champion Reilly Opelka in four tiebreaker sets in what was the tallest ever Grand Slam match. It was also Opelka's first slam main draw win.
Tomorrow’s action will witness the men in the top half of the draw, featuring the likes of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Alexander Zverev and Kei Nishikori.
TUESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE:
ROD LAVER ARENA
M. Keys(17) v D. Aiava(WC)
T. Maria v S. Williams(16)
A. Zverev (4) v A. Bedene
From 7:00pm AEDT
N. Djokovic(1) v M. Krueger(Q)
N. Osaka (4) v M. Linette
MARGARET COURT ARENA
K. Majchrzak v K. Nishikori (8)
T. Zidansek v D. Gavrilova
V. Williams v M. Buzarnescu(25)
From 7:00pm AEDT
S. Halep(1) v K. Kanepi
B. Paire v D. Thiem (7)