Serena, Coco win on Day 1 of Australian Open
The eyes of the tennis world are watching with anticipation to see whether Serena Williams makes history at the Australian Open. But take a step back and you’ll see the next generation of Americans ensuring the future is bright for Team USA.
U.S. players went 6-7 on a rain-shortened Day 1 of the Australian Open on Monday as three American teens joined Serena in the second round of the season’s first major.
Serena improved to 73-1 in Grand Slam main-draw matches with a comfortable 6-0, 6-3 win over former junior No. 1 and Wimbledon girls’ winner Anastasia Potapova of Russia. But Serena, who is looking to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam women’s singles titles, was far from the only American making headlines as play got underway in Melbourne.
Fifteen-year-old Coco Gauff proved her shock Wimbledon win over Venus Williams last summer was no fluke, beating the seven-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion 7-6, 6-3, inside Margaret Court Arena.
And there were wins for a pair of 18-year-old qualifiers, with Caty McNally beating former US Open champion Sam Stosur, 6-1, 6-4, and Pennsylvania native Ann Li, who upset the top seed in qualifying on Friday to advance to the main draw, winning her first career Grand Slam match with a 7-6, 7-6 win over Aussie wildcard Lizette Cabrera.
No. 14 seed Sofia Kenin, only 21 years old herself, beat Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan, 6-2, 6-4, ensuring there will be at least five U.S. women in the second round.
On Monday, Serena cruised past Potapova as she began her quest for No. 24. The No. 8 seed needed just 19 minutes to wrap up the first set and she broke serve five different times in a straight-forward victory in which she was barely troubled by the Russian teen.
Serena credited her performance to winning the title in Auckland last week, her first title as a mother, saying the monkey was off her back. "It was really important for me to get a win in the finals, she said after the match. "It felt like a relief and like I could move forward now."
Serena will now face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in the second round.
But while Serena cruised, big sister Venus was not as fortunate. The 39-year-old, a finalist in Melbourne in 2017, lost in the first round of a major for the fifth time in nine tries as youngster Gauff continued to impress.
There was little to separate the Americans on the court, even if they were separated by 24 years. Gauff (pictured above) was broken just once, Venus only twice, but those margins proved just enough to see the 15-year-old through to the Round of 64.
Venus dropped serve in the opening game of the contest and saved two set points at 3-5 before breaking Gauff when she went to serve out the opening set at 5-4. Instead, it went to a tiebreak, which Gauff claimed on her second set point after Venus fought back from 5-2 down.
The second set was just as close, with Gauff breaking early. But this time she didn’t face a break point the rest of the way, holding serve five times in a row and claiming victory on her second match point.
“I definitely was more confident this time. I think I was used to playing on big courts, so I guess the size of the crowd didn't startle me as much as last time,” Gauff said. “Definitely a bit more positive coming into this match this time around,” said Gauff, who couldn’t quite believe it was a Wimbledon rematch Down Under.
“Obviously I look up to [the Williams sisters]. Every time, even just walking by them, I have to remember that even though they're my idols, they're also going to be my opponents sometimes.”
Gauff’s reward is a second-round match with world No. 74 Sorana Cirstea after the Romanian neat No. 32 seed Barbara Strycova in straight sets.
King of Prussia teen Li, ranked No. 142 in the world, needed a pair of tiebreaks to edge past Cabrera, while Ohio native McNally saved 11 of 12 break points against Stosur to eliminate the hometown favorite and progress to the second round of a major for just the second time in her young career.
Li, who only played her first WTA-level main-draw match two weeks ago, will play Kenin in Round 2, while McNally will face Shuai Zhang of China after world No. 40 Zhang beat No. 24 seed Sloane Stephens 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
In other women’s first-round matches, Christina McHale lost to No. 13 seed Petra Martic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-0, and Kristie Awn fell to former Aussie Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1, 6-3, in what will be the Dane’s farewell tournament.
On the men’s side Sam Querrey was the first man through to the second round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 25 seed Borna Coric. It’s the 14th time in Querrey’s career that he’s eliminated a seed from a Grand Slam, with Coric joining the high profile names of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to crash out at the American’s expense.
Querrey hit 18 aces and dropped just nine points on his first serve as her frustrated Coric from the baseline. He recorded 36 winners to 19 errors in contrast to Coric who hit 20 winners and committed 30 miscues.
“I felt like I played well in Adelaide last week and practice has gone well,” Querrey said. “I established my dominance with hitting the ball and taking risks, I think I had twice as many winners as errors and overall I felt really good.
“Two to one winners to errors is probably unrealistic to expect that day in, day out, but if you can get the winers above the errors you’ll usually be there at least, have chances and win a lot of matches. I’m hoping to play like that every match this year.”
The 32-year-old will play Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in Round 2. Querrey has been to the third round of the Australian Open five times before, most recently in 2017, but his best performances have historically been on grass, including runs to the Wimbledon semifinal in 2017 and to the quarterfinals in 2016 and 2016.
Elsewhere on Day 1, Steve Johnson fell to No. 3 seed Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, Mackenzie McDonald let a two-set lead slip against 30th-seeded Brit Dan Evans, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3, and Marcos Giron lost in straight sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-5, 6-1, 6-2.
Three other Americans were in action on the field courts when rain suspended play early in the afternoon. No. 18 seed Alison Riske had just taken the first-set tiebreak against Yafan Wang of China and Reilly Opelka had sped out to a two-set lead over No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy. Tennys Sandgren had barely been on the court a few minutes when his match was delayed after just the first game.
Five other Americans scheduled to play on Day 1 were pushed back to Tuesday, meaning there will be 20 members of Team USA in action, weather permitting.