Australian Open 2021: Naomi Osaka sails into second round with Venus Williams


Naomi Osaka made a stunning start in the Australian Open on Monday by demolishing triple quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round. Russian veteran Pavlyuchenkova was seen as a potential banana skin for Osaka but was reduced to roadkill as the Japanese third seed steamrolled her in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena. 

In other first round matches, former Australian Open finalist Venus Williams joined Osaka in the second round with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Belgian Kirsten Flipkens while Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia also posted a battling 7-6 (8), 6-3 win over Polona Hercog in the opening round of the Australian Open. 

Nina Stojanovic of Serbia defeated Irina-Camila Begu of Belgium 6-3, 6-4 while Italian Camilla Giorgi trounced Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. 

Osaka pulled out of the semi-final of the Gippsland Trophy with a shoulder niggle but betrayed no sign of injury to the smattering of spectators in the centre court terraces. Osaka next faces Caroline Garcia for a place in the third round. 

Play got underway on time under leaden skies at Melbourne Park with the temperature hovering around the 17 degrees Celsius mark. There was one locally acquired case of COVID-19 reported in the state of Victoria on Monday, a worker at a quarantine hotel not associated with the tennis. 

The championships were delayed by three weeks to allow all players arriving from abroad to quarantine for two weeks. 

Bopanna begins doubles campaign 

India’s Rohan Bopanna and his partner Ben McLachlan of Japan will face Korean pair Nam Ji-Sung and Min-Kyu Song in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday. Bopanna’s compatriot Divij Sharan, meanwhile pairs up with Igor Zelenay of Slovakia and will face German pair Kevin Krawietz and Yannick Hanfmann. 

Ankita Raina, meanwhile, pairs up with Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu and will face Australian pair of Olivia Gadecki and Belinda Woolcock. Raina, 28, is the fifth Indian woman to feature in the main draw of a Grand Slam. She had earlier lost in the last round of qualifying in singles. 

Bopanna, 40, partnered with McLachlan in men’s doubles after Joao Sousa, whom the veteran Indian tennis player was supposed to play with, contracted Covid-19 and could not make the trip to the first Grand Slam of the year. McLachlan’s partner had to pull out of the tournament as well and it will be the first time that he will be pairing up with Bopanna. 

Sharan, 34, and Zelenay have played two matches in the run up to the Australian Open. They lost 6-7 (5), 4-6 to fifth-seeded French pair of Fabrice Martin-Jeremy Chardy in the pre-quarterfinals of the Murray River Open.

(with Agency inputs)

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