IT was a massive opening day at Melbourne Park, with plenty of storylines coming from the 2023 Australian Open. We take a look at the good, bad and ugly, as well as some of the matches that stood out for fans as the first Grand Slam of the year got underway.
- Chinese teenager Juncheng Shang became the first male in Open history to win a main draw match at Melbourne Park after defeating Oscar Otte in four sets, 6-2 6-4 6-7 7-5. More on that match via Rookie Me Central later today.
- World number ones Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek both kick-started their campaigns with wins, but not without challenges from their opponents. Nadal had to overcome some foot pain to defeat a cramping Jack Draper in four sets, 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-1, while Swiatek came back from a break down in the second set to put away tough German Jule Niemeier.
- The incredibly unlucky Draper has untapped potential, and has shown how he can match it with the best in the world the last three Slams. Unfortunately his body is not allowing him to get a sustained run at it, and severe cramps effectively stopped him from competing against world number one Nadal.
- Losing is never easy and unfortunately for young American Amanda Anisimova, it was all the more difficult. The 28th seed was a rising star on the WTA Tour a few years back, but the tragic death of her father understandably affected her. After getting back on track and moving into the Top 30 off a strong 2022 season, Anisimova had great hopes back at Melbourne Park. Unfortunately in-form Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk had other ideas, knocking out the American in straight sets, 6-3 6-4. The post-match scenes were heartbreaking for those watching as Anisimova was reduced to tears, unable to repeat her Round of 16 feats last year.
- Injuries. Not only did Aussie great hope Nick Kyrgios pull out, but he joined names such as Carlos Alcaraz, Paula Badosa and Ajla Tomljanovic as withdrawals, while others were hampered in their respective matches.
- One-sided beltings. It is not uncommon to see some ugly scorelines in the opening round, but you had to feel for the likes of Marcos Giron, Jaqueline Cristian and Dalma Galfi. Reigning men’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev only dropped three games en route to victory over Giron, as Qinwen Zheng dropped just the two facing Galfi, and third seed Jessica Pegula was ruthless in a 6-0 6-1 win over Cristian.
- On the same day that Australia’s best hope at lifting a Grand Slam singles trophy aloft – Kyrgios – pulled out, the blue collar talent John Millman brought life back to the Australian Open crowd. After 38 games in the first three sets and going down two sets to one against Swiss world number 55 Marc-Andrea Huesler, Millman stormed to victory in the last two sets, winning 6-7 7-5 6-7 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round.
- In the women’s draw, it was hard to look past local hope Olivia Gadecki who became the first Australian through to the second round. She knocked off Russian qualifier Polina Kudermetova after an early challenge, 7-5 6-1 to book her place in the second round. The 200th ranked 20-year-old wildcard matched her 2021 Australian Open campaign of reaching the second round, her only previous main draw victory in a Grand Slam.
- South African Lloyd Harris had injury issues in 2022 after a promising 2021 lead him into the Top 30. Few expected him to trouble 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti in their opening round clash. Though the 17th seeded Italian came in with shoulder issues stemming back from the United Cup, he felt he was right to go. Harris had not played an ATP Tour match this year, instead opting for Challenger contests, flying back from Thailand a day before his first round match. Shocking Musetti in the opening two sets, Harris raced out to a lead, before the Italian roped him in. Just when it looked like the favourite would waltz away with it, Harris found another breath and ground out an incredible 10-4 super tiebreak in the fifth set, 6-4 6-1 6-7 2-6 7-6.
COMEBACK OF THE DAY:
- Another Aussie features in this, with wildcard excitement machine Rinky Hijikata somehow finding a way against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann. Down two sets to love and looking out of it, Hijikata battled across four hours and 25 minutes to dig deep and come out on top, 4-6 4-6 6-3 7-6 6-3 in front of a passionate green and gold crowd out on Court 8.
MATCH OF THE DAY:
- Realistically it could have been Harris’ win over Musetti, but from the women’s side of things, reigning runner-up Danielle Collins‘ relieving three-set victory over Russian Anna Kalinskaya was a match to behold. In incredible circumstances, the 13th seeded American needed three hours and three minutes to triumph on Kia Arena, hitting a massive 55 winners to Kalinskaya’s 30, but also 56 unforced errors to 33. Eventually she won a third break of serve – showcasing the difficulty for both players to break – and won 7-5 5-7 6-4 in three hours and three minutes, Just one point separated the pair, with Collins winning 117 total points to Kalinskaya’s 116.