It was very pleasing to see Evo get through without any issues today against David Goffin. This could have been a tough one. Having won the first set it was very straight forward and he even managed to end with a bagel in his 6/4 6/3 6/0 win. The Belgian has been suffering from a knee injury but admitted this did not come into play today. Evans will play Arthur Rinderknech in the second round after he took out Alexei Popyrin in five. Rinderknech’s comments after made me laugh when asked about the home crowd, “Winning, in the end, was an explosion of joy. I wanted to say to them: Give me one last ovation, one last noise. But not the joyful one, the one where you guys are a little undone. Because in the end, I waxed your Aussie.” Muzza outlasted Nikoloz Basilashvili again, having beaten him in Sydney last week. It took five sets but he just has more consistency to his game as Basilashvili can’t quite maintain the attacking levels required to get through this matchup when Murray is somewhere near where he needs to be. Liam Broady came up a little short against an inspired Nick Kyrgios and mentioned that the crowd were pretty hostile to him courtside. Saying it was the first time he has been booed going onto court and that he was constantly being sledged from the stands. Stockport’s finest also mentioned that this will set him in good stead for the rest of the year. It wasn’t a bad performance from him though all in all, plus a decent effort to get through three rounds of qualies.
Stefanos Tsitipas looked in the mood to mount a decent assault in Melbourne, looking very complete in beating Mikael Ymer in straights and having a decent record when approaching the net. Daniil Medvedev raced through the first two sets and edged a breaker to dismiss Henri Laaksonen. Laaksonen tightened up when having the chance to go to a fourth set. The Russian admitted that he is the favourite for the event but put Nadal in the same breath as a twenty-time slam champion. It should be a cracker against Kyrgios next. Felix Auger-Aliassime admitted that he has a lot of respect for Emil Ruusuvuori, who led the contest by two sets to one but Felix is made of sterner stuff these days and progressed in a decider. Diego Schwartzman also won, despite cramping towards the end of his three-set win against Filip Krajinovic.
Other winners today were Andrey Rublev (Gianluca Mager), Roberto Bautista Agut (Stefano Travaglia), Grigor Dimitrov (Jiri Lehecka), Jannik Sinner (Joao Sousa) and Taylor Fritz (Maximilian Marterer). Ugo Humbert lost out to Richard Gasquet, who enjoyed the windy conditions and Casper Ruud had to withdraw from the event before his match with Alex Molcan with an ankle injury.
Emma Raducanu’s form since winning in New York has been quite shaky, as you would probably expect but she seems to love the big occasion. It wasn’t the highest of quality matches today against Sloane Stephens but she won a topsy turvy encounter in three sets. She will like her chances against Danka Kovinic in the next round and she is generally around the 1/5 mark. Heather Watson also progressed with a three-set victory against Mayar Sherif. It was interesting to read that she said she had stopped loving and enjoying the game and going on court for the battle in the last few years but that has changed after a preseason in Florida. I would love to see her beat Tamara Zidansek in the next round. Harriet Dart was the other Brit to play today and she had her work cut out against Iga Swiatek. She actually started off well enough and led 3-1 in the opener before the Pole reeled off the next eleven games to take the match. Rough draw for Dart having got through qualies.
Elena Rybakina had to save a match point against Zarina Diyas in the second set but came through 6/1 in the third. She did have to take a MTO in the second for blisters apparently. Garbine Muguruza wasn’t at her fluent best but it was still good enough to beat Clara Burel in straights. The Spaniard made thirty-five ventures to the net in this one for tactical reasons. Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka was a set and break down against Storm Sanders and looked in the world of trouble with her game. A run of nine straight games put her in control of it though and she didn’t need a second invitation thereafter. It will have to be much better looking forward but I don’t see it happening for the Belarussian in Melbourne this year.
Elsewhere former champion Angie Kerber lost out to Kaia Kanepi, who claims another big scalp at a slam. There were also wins for Elise Mertens (Vera Zvonareva), Marketa Vondrousova (Priscilla Hon), Anastasia Pavlyucenkova ( Anna Bondar), Simona Halep (Magdalena Frech) and Anett Kontaveit (Katerina Siniakova). US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez put in a below-par performance against Madison Inglis and has been sent packing. The same can be said about Petra Kvitova who lost comfortably to Sorana Cirstea and now has a 3-0 record on hard courts against the Czech.
Al Davies (Andy Del Potro).