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Barty, Krejcikova and Azarenka cruise as Keys takes out Kenin

World No 1 Ash Barty was in imperious form as she made an meticulous start to her Australian Open 2022 campaign on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night, beating Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round, 6-0 6-1, while Madison Keys upset former champion Sofia Kenin in an all-American derby, and both Jelena Ostapenko and Jessica Pegula came through tough three-setters.

I felt like it was nice and clean. End to end, I did a good job in adjusting with the wind, and I felt like I was able to control the points with my forehand. Ash Barty

Two-time winner Victoria Azarenka also eased through to her first win at the AO in 6 years, while No 4 seed Barbora Krejcikova cruised too, but former World No 12 Wang Qiang surprised Coco Gauff in a first-round upset.

It was a flawless start for Barty, who is on a quest to win the title at Melbourne Park for the first time, looking to add to her French Open and Wimbledon crowns.

The first set belonged to the Australian after just 24 minutes, and the second continued in a similar vein as Barty held to love before a double-fault on the Ukrainian’s serve made it 2-0.

A 9th successive game inside just 36 minutes followed, and yet another break of the Tsurenko serve came next, as she smashed the net, with Barty relentless in her pursuit of a spot in round 2, but the Ukrainian avoided a humiliating double bagel with a gusty hold , saving 2 match points to stop the rot and get herself on the scoreboard.

It was too little, too late to stave off the loss, though, and while Barty ultimately needed 5 match points, a service winner sealed a place in the second round of a major for the 15th consecutive time.

As the Wimbledon champion raced through the first 11 games, she only faced break points in the 3rd game, and saved them with a forehand winner and an ace.

“It’s certainly nice to be back on home soil now and, playing as well as I did tonight, was a lot of fun,” Barty said after needing only 54 minutes to book her place in the second round.

Tsurenko has been ranked as high as No 23 and was a US Open 2018 quarter-finalist but the current World No 119, who looked nervous from the outset, provided no threat to Barty, who produced a dominant display, firing 5 aces, winning 73 per cent of first serve points and striking 14 winners to 17 unforced errors in the process.

“I felt like it was nice and clean,” the 25-year old said of her performance. “End to end, I did a good job in adjusting with the wind, and I felt like I was able to control the points with my forehand.”

Barty was only taken to deuce twice on her serve in the match and was in control of almost every exchange, dragging Tsurenko around the court in all directions with biting slices and heavy forehands so that the Ukrainian racked up 21 unforced errors and found only 4 winners.

The Australian, who won her 3rd tournament on home soil at the Adelaide 500 just over a week ago, extended her winning streak to 5 matches with the win and is on a run of 42 consecutive service holds stretching back to her Adelaide opener against Coco Gauff, while she has gone unbroken in each of the four matches since.

The top-seeded Australian now meets another qualifier, 23-year-old Italian Lucia Bronzetti, in the second round, who came from behind to oust Russia’s Vavara Gracheva, 3-6 6-2 6-3.

It will be Barty’s first meeting with the World No 142, who is making her Grand Slam main draw debut this week.

18th seed Coco Gauff (L) was upset by Wang Qiang (R) in her opening round at Melbourne Park on Monday

© Michael Errey/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Gauff, the 17-year old American, crashed out in the opening round after an error-strewn performance against China’s 30-year old Wang Qiang, as the 18th seed lost, 6-4 6-2, on Monday.

Gauff shot to fame as a 15-year-old when she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019 on her Grand Slam debut.

She also reached the 4th round at Melbourne Park in 2020 before making the French Open quarter-finals last year.

Two years ago in Melbourne, Wang upset Serena Williams en route to her best-ever Grand Slam result.

Now outside the Top 100, the former World No 12 showed she still has what it takes after having lost to Gauff twice in 2021 in back-to-back weeks.

The Chinese broke Gauff four times and took advantage of the 38 errors that leaked from the American’s racket.

She sealed the decisive break in the first set at 2-2, and denied Gauff an immediate chance to break back in the next game.

Wang, in fact, won 6 straight games from 5-4 in the first set, but ultimately needed two chances to serve out the match.

Gauff saved 3 match points on serve in the 7th game, and was later denied two chances to creep closer before Wang served out victory.

“I don’t know if it was just an off day or just getting used to it (conditions),” said the 17-year old. “Today I came into the match and the first couple of games, even though they were close, I was making more errors than I was used to.

“Just everything disappointed me about today. I feel in the pre-season, I worked really hard, and I felt like I was ready to have a good run here. Today I just didn’t perform well.

“I didn’t play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal.”

Madison Keys sent 2020 AO champion Sofia Kenin, the World No 13, packing on Monday

© Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Madison Keys continued her run of hot form by by upsetting her fellow American, 11th-seeded Sofia Kenin, 7-6(2) 7-5, in 1 hour and 31 minutes on John Cain Arena.

Kenin has won her only Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park and has otherwise struggled to raise her game at majors, losing to Keys in straight sets in their last encounter at the U.S. Open three years ago.

Keys, a former World No 7, lifted her first trophy since 2019 at the Adelaide 250 last week, and won her 6th straight match, slamming 31 winners, including 15 aces, to win her 43rd WTA-level match against a fellow American out of 63 to date.

The clean quality of Keys’ play meant that Kenin needed all of her famed grit to keep the scoreline close, and the 2020 champion did so admirably.

Kenin, 23, protected her own serve well, landing 73% of her first deliveries and winning 65% of those points.

A spectacular lob also paved the way to her sole break of the Keys serve, which came as the World No 51 served for the match, but Keys remained calm despite Kenin nipping at her heels and the 26-year-old seized control of the first-set tiebreak with 3 forehand winners, and wrapped it up with an ace.

A superb redirected backhand winner down the line garnered the first service break of the match for 5-4 in the second set and, having been stymied on the first attempt to serve out the win, Keys made no mistake the second time with a trio of aces bringing her to triple match point, and she converted the third with a service winner.

No 26 seed Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia and 21st-seeded American Jessica Pegula both delivered resilient performances to survive determined opponents in their openers.

Ostapenko recovered after losing a first set in which she had held 5 set points to beat Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 6-7(7) 6-3 6-1, in 2 hours and 15 minutes, while Pegula triumphed 4-6 7-6(1) 7-5 over Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in 2 hours 52 minutes, which was the longest match of Day 1.

Two-time AO champ Victoria Azarenka dropped just 4 games to Panna Udvardy on Monday

© Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Azarenka, seeded No 24, kicked off her 14th campaign in Melbourne with a 6-3 6-1 win over Hungary’s Panna Udvardy, her first since 2016 due to missing 2017-2020 editions, and improved her career record in opening rounds at Grand Slams to a sparkling 46-10.

The Belarusian broke early in the first set as Udvardy went toe-to-toe with her over the first 9 games, forcing Azarenka to play some of her best tennis to get and stay ahead.

She saved 2 break points serving at 3-2, and later won the last 8 points of the set before dropping serve in the first game of the second, and then rolling on to win the next 6 games.

Krejcikova closed her week in Sydney with a pair of dramatic 3-setters, but the 4th seed started her AO with an emphatic 6-2 6-0 win at the expense of Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, in just over an hour.

The pair traded breaks in the first two games of the match, but it was all the Czech from then on and she won 11 of the next 12 games to advance.

Krejcikova hit a stunning 28 winners to 14 unforced errors in 67 minutes and broke Petkovic 6 times.

To reach the 3rd round for the first time, Krejcikova will next face Chinese wild-card Wang Xiyu after the 2018 junior US Open champion scored her first-ever Grand Slam main-draw win by beating Viktoria Kuzmova, 7-5 6-3.

In the last match of the day, Paula Badosa, Krejcikova’s conquerer on Sunday in Sydney, also made it into round 2 with a comprehensive win over local favourite Ajla Tomljanovic, the No 8 seed from Spain taking out the Aussie, 6-4 6-0.

Paula Badosa (L) bagelled Ajla Tomljanovic in the second set to continue her fine run in Australia

© Michael Errey/AFP via Getty Images



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