’Vintage’ Serena, Osaka impress at Australian Open, but Kerber out at first hurdle

’Vintage’ Serena, Osaka impress at Australian Open, but Kerber out at first hurdle


MELBOURNE – An aggressive Serena Williams started her quest Monday for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title by thrashing Laura Siegemund on day one of the Australian Open.

The 39-year-old, playing an unparallelled 100th match at the tournament, looked sharp and smashed 16 winners in the 6-1, 6-1 romp in 56 minutes.

“This was a good start, it was vintage Serena,” she said.

ALSO READ: Youthful Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty stand in way of Serena Williams’ path to 24th Slam

Williams, wearing a striking multi-coloured, one-legged catsuit, was broken in the opening game but hit back immediately and kept her foot on the pedal in a one-sided contest.

She showed no ill-effects of a shoulder injury that ruled her out of the semi-finals of the warm-up Yarra Valley Classic.

Williams has also been battling a lingering Achilles injury first sustained at last year's US Open, but has been in strong form so far in Melbourne.

The American, seeded 10th in her 20th Australian Open, needs one more major to equal Margaret Court's record Grand Slam tally.

She has not added to her glittering collection since beating her sister Venus in the Australian Open final in 2017 when she was pregnant with daughter Olympia.

ALSO READ: Ashley Barty lays down Australian Open marker with win over Garbine Muguruza

Williams, the seven-time Australian Open champion, will play Serbia's Nina Stojanovic in the second round.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 8, 2021 Japan's Naomi Osaka celebrates winning her first round match against Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova REUTERS/Loren Elliott

World No 3 Naomi Osaka started her Australian Open in style Monday with an easy straight-sets victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as the delayed Grand Slam finally got under way.

The Japanese star faced a potentially tricky first-round contest against the world number 39, but made light work of the Russian 6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes.

“I was really nervous coming into this match. I just wanted to play well,” Osaka, who hit 18 winners, told a smattering of spectators on Rod Laver Arena.

The 23-year-old, seeded three in Melbourne Park, looked physically strong having withdrawn from the warm-up Gippsland Trophy in the semi-finals, blaming a long-standing shoulder problem.

Osaka, whose flashy attire included leggings and pink shoes, skirt and wristbands, won the first four games and continued the momentum as she relentlessly worked Pavlyuchenkova around the court with powerful groundstrokes.

The three-time Grand Slam winner stretched her streak to 15 matches unbeaten — including the US Open final — dating back 12 months.

Osaka, who won the 2019 Australian Open, plays former top 10 player Caroline Garcia of France or Slovenia's Polona Hercog in the second round.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber crashed out of the Australian Open Monday with a heavy 6-0, 6-4 defeat to Bernarda Pera, in the first upset of the tournament.

The 2016 Australian Open winner, seeded 23 at Melbourne Park, was in disarray as she succumbed in just one hour and 10 minutes against American Pera, ranked 63.

“I knew I had a tough opponent but I was ready for it,” said Pera, who has never made it past the third round of a Slam.

The German, who had 25 unforced errors and seven double faults, lost the first nine games as she faced the humiliating prospect of a 6-0, 6-0 ‘double bagel' before her attempts at a comeback were thwarted by the 26-year-old.

An out-of-sorts Kerber made the quarter-finals of the warm-up Grampians Trophy in Melbourne, organised for players forced into a hard 14-day quarantine on their arrival in Australia.

It was the second consecutive first-round Grand Slam defeats for Kerber, who lost to Kaja Juvan in the French Open.

Pera plays Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the second round.


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