The opening day of the Australian Open has come and gone, as 17,922 fans entered the famous Melbourne Park to watch the likes of Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Nick Kyrgios in action.
It marks a successful start to the tennis calendar, which was decimated in parts of 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, the tournament started three weeks later than its traditional January date, and yes, the likes of Andy Murray are unable to compete having tested positive for covid-19 midway through January.
However, after overcoming an almighty scare, in which 507 players and staff were cleared having been forced to quarantine after a hotel worker tested positive for the UK strain of coronavirus, it’s a blessing to have any tennis on at all.
But for the players, it’s now strictly business, and many of the sport’s top names got their competitions underway on Monday.
A total of 17,922 fans were welcomed to Melbourne Park on the first day of the Australian Open
Novak Djokovic brushes aside Jeremy Chardy
Novak Djokovic cruised into the second round with a straight-sets victory over Jeremy Chardy
Reigning champion Novak Djokovic, who is searching for a record-extending ninth Australian Open title, began his defence against the highly experienced Jeremy Chardy.
Djokovic entered the match having beaten the Frenchman in all 13 of their previous meetings, and he wasted little time in progressing to the second round.
The world No1 and top seed dropped just six games as he beat Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in only 91 minutes.
It was the perfect start for Djokovic, who was delighted to see the fans back at a major championships.
‘It makes my heart full to see a crowd in a stadium again,’ he said after the match. ‘It’s one of those things, that we hope that these kind of circumstances in the world are only temporary and I’m really glad to see a lot of people.’
Next up for Djokovic is an intriguing encounter with Frances Tiafoe. The American – who beat Stefano Travaglia in straight-sets on Monday – has never played against Djokovic before.
Serena Williams makes light work of Laura Siegemund
Serena Williams got off to a perfect start as she continues her search for a 24th Grand Slam
Earlier in the day, 10th seed Serena Williams brushed aside the challenge of Laura Siegemund as the American sailed into the second round.
Williams, who continues her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title, put on an emphatic performance in a 6-1, 6-1 demolition of the German world No49 on Rod Laver Arena.
The American didn’t get off to a great start, however, as she was broken in the opening game of the match.
But the 39-year-old is far too experienced at championship level to let a bad start impact her performance, as she reeled off 10 consecutive games to take total control.
Williams – who’s sister Venus joined her in the second round with a straight-sets victory over Kirsten Flipkens – rushed off court to watch the ending of Super Bowl LV, where Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Up next for Williams is Nina Stojanovic in the second round.
Nick Kyrgios progresses despite early outburst
Nick Kyrgios will play 29th seed Ugo Hembert in the second round of the Australian Open
It didn’t take long for Aussie Nick Kyrgios to progress to the second round by beating Frederico Ferreira Silva 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
It also didn’t take long for the controversial star to raise a few eyebrows out on John Cain Arena.
Having squandered a break point in the opening game of the match, the world No47 found himself a break down by the second.
And after failing to convert what was his seventh break point in only the third game of the match, Kyrgios directed a rather bizarre demand to a member of his entourage.
‘Tell your girlfriend to get out of my box,’ he said, before eventually breaking and sealing the first set by six games to four.
The remainder of the match was more routine, though you couldn’t say the same about his post-match comments.
The 25-year-old, who will play 29th seed Ugo Humbert in the second round, responded to criticism by Novak Djokovic, who on Sunday said he didn’t have much respect for Kyrgios off the court.
‘He’s a very strange cat, Novak is,’ Kyrgios said. ‘Heck of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone that’s partying with his shirt off during a global pandemic, I don’t know if I can take any slack from that man. That’s as bad as it gets for me.’
Katie Boulter crashes out
Katie Boulter became the first Brit to exit this year’s Australian Open with a straight-sets loss
It was an unfortunate day for Britain’s Katie Boulter, who fell at the first hurdle on day one of the Australian Open.
Boulter, who has been granted a protective ranking while she works her way back from a back injury sustained in 2019, was handed a difficult first round tie against former top-10 challenger Daria Kasatkina.
And the task proved too difficult in the end for the 24-year-old, who lost 6-1, 6-4.
Boulter brightened in the second set, but she was left to rue a slow start, in which she hit 18 unforced errors in the opening seven games.
The Brit spoke of her disappointment after the match, saying: ‘I’m pretty disappointed with today.
‘I felt like I never really got going, I felt quite uncomfortable out on the court. I put a lot of pressure on myself when really there was absolutely no need to.’
Osaka, Zverev, Thiem and Halep all claim victories
Elsewhere, there were wins for Naomi Osaka, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Simona Halep on the opening day of the Australian Open.
Osaka, who comes in as the third seed, will play Caroline Garcia in round two after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2.
Dominic Thiem – who came within one set of the Australian Open title last year, eventually losing to Novak Djokovic in a five-set epic – beat Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets to progress to the second round.
Joining him there is sixth seed Alexander Zverev, who beat Marcos Giron in four sets after losing the first via a tie-break.
Simona Halep, the second seed in the women’s draw, also made a fast start as she beat Lizette Cabrera 6-2, 6-1.