Melbourne | Yastremska fells Vondrousova as more seeds depart

Seeds are beginning to tumble at the Australian Open, with Marketa Vondrousova, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Donna Vekic and Marie Bouzkova all making their way to the exit doors on Monday, Day 2 of the first Grand Slam of the year.

I'm happy to be back. Happy winning the first round again here. I'm just happy with the way I started the Australian Open in general. Of course not easy at the beginning of the match, but then played quite solid, so I'm happy with the win today. Elina Svitolina

Vondrousova, the reigning Wimbledon champion and 7th seed at Melbourne Park, could only muster 3 games off Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, while Laura Siegemund edged out Alexandrova, the 17th seed from Russia after a 3-hour battle, as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another Russian, dispatched Donna Vekic, the No 21 seed from Croatia in straight sets, and young Linda Noskova saw off fellow Czech Bouzkova, the 31st seed, also in two sets.

Meanwhile, Coco Gauff made easy passage into the 2nd-round with a comfortable win over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia, 6-3 6-0.

Vondrousova, who was a surprise winner at the All England Club last summer and pulled out of Adelaide last week with a hip injury after contesting two matches at the United Cup, was royally thumped by 23-year old Yastremska, 6-1 6-2, in under an hour.

The 7th seed, who is no stranger to injury, sported strapping around her serving shoulder, while her average first serve speed registered at 158 km/h, which was a considerable dip on the 164 km/h clocked during her Wimbledon final victory over Ons Jabeur.

Yastremska had gone to 3 sets in all 3 of her qualifying matches as the top seed, and was firing well on Monday, racking up 26 winners against the left-handed Vondrousova, who made 19 unforced errors to her 5 winners.

“In life I’m also pretty aggressive, same on court,” Yastremska said afterwards. “Of course, I played like that since I was very small, but I do enjoy to play like this.

“I have a lot of mistakes as well but it’s fine. When you play aggressive, it’s normal.

“I’m very proud of Ukraine, proud of the people, proud of the warriors and just the civilians,” she added. “When I was in Brisbane, before my match the rocket arrived on my grandmother’s house so it was pretty hard to play, but I think we just need to remember about it, and give as much support as possible to Ukraine. I’m proud to be Ukrainian.”

Elina Svitolina made short work of 18-year old wild-card Taylah Preston on Day 2 of the Australian Open

© William West/AFP via Getty Images

Her compatriot, Elina Svitolina, is also proudly flying the Ukrainian flag, having returned to the WTA Tour last April after giving birth to daughter Skai.

Buoyed by a Roland-Garros quarter-final and Wimbledon semi-final, Svitolina has soared to 25 in the world and she made short work of Grand Slam singles debutante wild-card Taylah Preston, 6-2 6-2.

Svitolina ripped off 6 straight games from 1-2 down in the opening set against the 18-year-old World No 203.

“I’m happy to be back. Happy winning the first round again here,” Svitolina said afterwards. “I’m just happy with the way I started the Australian Open in general.

“Of course not easy at the beginning of the match, but then played quite solid, so I’m happy with the win today.”

Asked if she preferred to play during the day or at night, the globetrotting 19th seed said there were pros and cons.

“Either way works, because if I’m playing at night I’m gonna go in the morning to see [Skai],” replied Svitolina, who is married to Gael Monfils. “If I’m playing in the morning, like now, okay, Gael is going to play soon, but I’m going to see her this afternoon. So, we just have to adjust.”

One of Svitolina’s major strengths is her return and Preston, a teenager from Perth, Western Australia, who stretched Caroline Garcia to 3 sets last week in Adelaide, discovered that first hand.

Svitolina, who bagged 80% of points behind Preston’s second serve, will next face Viktoriya Tomova for a chance to reach the 3rd-round.

Coco Gauff brandished her new serve against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and won in 2 easy sets

© David Gray/AFP via Getty Images

19-year old Gauff opened proceedings on Rod Laver Arena, her first Grand Slam match since she lifted the US Open trophy in September, and she brushed Schmiedlova aside in exactly an hour, winning 9 games in a row to set up a 2nd-round meeting with fellow American Caroline Dolehide.

“I felt good,” said Gauff, who was been working on her serve with former World No 1Andy Roddick. “I was a little bit nervous coming in today. Probably you could tell. I was able to just calm down and then play, not my best, but good tennis from that point.”

The 60-minute battle between the American teenager and her Slovakian rival featured 6 early breaks of serve until Gauff steadied.

“When I was nervous at three-all, I just told myself ‘I feel good, I look good, so just have fun’,” Gauff said with a smile. “That was able to relax me a little bit – that’s why I play tennis, to have fun, so I remind myself.”

Brandishing her new service motion, she stepped up to serve at 5-3 in the opening set, and clocked her fastest serve of the match at 198 km/h on her way to clinching 7 consecutive games, and the win.

“I found my serve towards the end [of the first] and in the second set,” said Gauff, who won 100% of first serve points in the second set.

Her dominance limited Schmiedlova to just 5 total points in the second set, including only 2 unforced errors off Gauff’s racket.

Laura Siegemund continued her strong start to the season by edging out Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 17th seed, after 3 hours of play

© Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Siegemund, who was Germany’s United Cup heroine and an Adelaide quarter-finalist, continued her strong start to the year, coming from 2-4 down in the third set to upset Alexandrova, 6-2 3-6 7-6[9], after 3 hours and 1 minute.

Ranked 78, Siegemund is unbeaten in both singles and doubles this season so far, having withdrawn from Adelaide ahead of her quarter-final due to a left leg injury.

This result was her second Top 20 win of 2024, and her first win over Alexandrova in 3 meetings.

Pavlyuchenkova got the better of Vekic, 6-4 6-4, making it two in a row over the 21st seed at Margaret Court Arena.

This followed a narrow quarter-final defeat to World No 5 Jessica Pegula last week in Adelaide.

Pavlyuchenkova is a Grand Slam finalist, who continues to make her way back from a serious knee injury, while Vekic matched her best showing at a major at AO 2023 by venturing to the quarter-finals.

She, too, has had to contend with injuries.

Elsewhere, 19-year old Noskova, a Czech ranked 50, saw off her compatriot, 25-year old Bouzkova, ranked 34, 6-1 7-5, and will play American wild-card McCartney Kessler, who stopped Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro’s run from qualifying, 3-6 6-3 6-2.

World doubles No 1 Storm Hunter won her first AO singles match against Sara Errani in front of her parents on Monday at Melbourne Park

© Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images

Storm Hunter powered her way into the 2nd-round with a 6-4 6-3 over Italian Sara Errani at Kia Arena, equalling her best Grand Slam singles result.

The World No 1 in doubles paid tribute to the sacrifices of her parents after she secured her first main singles draw victory at Melbourne Park, where she showcased the power and confidence that carried her through qualifying.

Monday’s win also came in front of her parents, who arrived from Perth on Sunday.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “They they had flights for Sunday so they were, like, ‘you better get through qualifying if we can watch you,’ so that was definitely a big motivation.”

Hunter spent part of her youth in Rockhampton, in the now closed Grand Hotel owned by her grandparents, where she lived upstairs with her parents, who joined the Navy to help finance their child’s career.

“My parents had no money but they were hard workers,” she said. “They knew I had this dream and they joined the military trying to give us a better life, and a better opportunity, and we relocated to WA.

“I spent a lot of time in my childhood not seeing my parents because they were sacrificing their time, with me and my brother, to give us that support.”

Watched by her parents court-side, Monday’s result takes on greater significance for Hunter.

“It means everything,” the 29-year-old said on court after the match. “I grew up watching the Australian Open and then dreaming of playing here.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities, and I’m a little bit older so I’ve played a few main draws and never got the win, so to come through qualifying and to win my first round in singles, it’s a dream come true.”

Italy’s No 26 seed, Jasmine Paolini, was also victorious, defeating Russian teenager, Diana Shnaider, 6-3 6-4.



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