Australian Open 2022: Let The Tennis Begin

Melbourne Park (photo: Vince Caligiuri / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 17, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Australian Open 2022 launched in Melbourne Park Monday – and for the first time in a fortnight, the focus centered on tennis on the court and not in the courtroom. By all accounts, with plenty of star power headlining the first-day order of play, featuring Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal during the day and Ashleigh Barty in the evening, there was something for everyone to enjoy and cheer about.

As Day One of the year’s first major – dubbed the “Happy Slam” – began under cloudy skies and a temperature of about 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit), the reigning Australian Open champion Osaka, seeded 13th, was second on Rod Laver Arena against 50th-ranked Camila Osorio of Colombia. Osaka hit 19 winners and won 6-3, 6-3 in 69 minutes to begin defense of her 2021 title. She outpointed Osorio 62-49 to advance to the second round in 68 minutes.

“It’s special for me to come back here,” Osaka said during her on-court interview following her win. “I have a lot of really good memories here. It feels always nice to start the year with this tournament. … I hope we gave you a good performance.”

No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari became the first Top 10 woman to advance to the second round after pulling through to beat No. 285 Tatjana Maria of Germany, 6-4, 7-6 (2), in an hour and 46 minutes in back of 28 winners, in the first match on Rod Laver Arena during the day session. Maria, coached by her husband and with her children in tow made it a family affair in Melbourne.

Elsewhere, off to a speedy start was Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who sped past No. 88 Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-4, 6-3. The 22nd seed hit 17 winners and converted four of six break-point chances to advance. Next, the No. 22 Bencic will face 61st-ranked American Amanda Anisimova, who survived an early scare and beat 2018 NCAA champion and Ole Miss graduate Arianne Hartono of the Netherlands, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. A 191st-ranked qualifier, Hartono was appearing in her first Grand Slam main draw and it’s a one-hour and 45-minute experience she won’t soon forget.

Also, 2021 NextGen ATP champion Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who is seeded 31st, easily defeated 136th-ranked qualifier Alejandro Tabillo of Chile, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. The No. 33 Alcaraz, clad in a sleeveless red top, struck 12 aces and broke Tabillo’s serve seven times during the one-hour and 54-minute match.

Meanwhile, big-hitting 30th-seed Camila Giorgi of Italy became the first player to advance to the second round after easily defeating No. 68 Anastasia Potapova, 6-4, 6-0, in 72 minutes.

Out in the Open – Day One

• Among the faces in the crowd Monday at the Australian Open: Former Australian greats Neale Fraser, 88 (three-time Grand Slam champion, former World No. 1, and longtime Australia Davis Cup captain) and Frank Sedgman, 94 (five Grand Slam titles, former World No. 1). Plus, two-time Australian Open champion Jim Courier, who is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first of his two Australian Open championships.

• Artist Paink unveiled a stunning new mural, featuring Aussie champions Ashleigh Barty and Dylan Alcott, at the entrance of Grand Slam Oval.

Monday’s Australian Open results

Tuesday’s Australian Open order of play

What they’re writing

Reem Abulleil, who writes about tennis for the U.A.E.’s The National, penned an insightful story about World No. 6 Paula Badosa of Spain, who just captured her third career WTA title Saturday at the Sydney Tennis Classic. Badosa spoke at length about her battle with depression and how it’s sinking in that she’s seeded in tournaments these days.

By the numbers

There were six Aussies in action on opening day at Melbourne Park led by women’s World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty and men’s wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis, who won his first ATP title at the Adelaide International 2 Saturday night.

“I’m excited to be back home in Australia, excited to be back playing,” Barty said during her media day sit-down on Saturday. “I just have to hope that everyone understands that I’m giving it my best crack. It doesn’t always work out exactly how you want to. But you go about it the right way, you do the right things and try to give yourself the best chance – that’s all you can do. That goes for all the other Aussies as well.”

Barty needed just 55 minutes to defeat 119th-ranked qualifier Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, 6-0, 6-1.

After winning at Adelaide, Kokkinakis said: “Hopefully now it’s a sign that I can keep going. It gives me obviously a lot more motivation as well. I don’t want to stop here.”

Unfortunately for Kokkinakis, he was unable to sustain the momentum he gained from winning at Adelaide and lost 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to 126th-ranked qualifier Yannick Hanfmann of Germany.

Other Aussies in action Monday included: wild card Aleksandar Vukic, James Duckworth, John Millman and Ajla Tomljanovic.

“Quotable …”

“I think we all want to move on, whatever it is, move on and focus on the cool aspect of starting a slam. I think all of this could have been avoided, like we’ve all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to come here in Australia.

“Everybody knew very clearly the rules. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult.”

– Women’s world No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, commenting on the Novak Djokovic saga during her media day appearance Saturday at Melbourne Park.