With play finally under way in the Melbourne Summer, the first two women’s events kicked off at Melbourne Park on Sunday with mixed fortunes for Aussies at the Yarra Valley Classic when home favourite Sam Stosur fell easily while Daria Gavrilova won just as easily.
It’s about getting through the Aussie summer and then after that it is hard to know, given we are still going to need to quarantine if we want to come home. It makes it tough to make a schedule given the family circumstances now. Ten years ago I’d jump on a plane and not come back for a year but I am not in a position to do that at the moment. Sam Stosur
Stosur was playing her first competitive match since March and is now ranked 112 after taking a long break following the birth of her first child.
She faced the 16th seed Marie Bouzkova from the Czech Republic and went down 6-2 6-0 in just over an hour.
The 2011 US Open champion hasn’t made any firm plans for the coming year but says she hopes to play all four Grand Slams.
“It’s about getting through the Aussie summer and then after that it is hard to know, given we are still going to need to quarantine if we want to come home,” Stosur said. “It makes it tough to make a schedule given the family circumstances now.
“Ten years ago I’d jump on a plane and not come back for a year but I am not in a position to do that at the moment.”
Gavrilova, ranked 451 and playing as a wildcard, won her first match on home soil since 2019, easing past Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-2 6-0, on Margaret Court Arena.
It took her 65 minutes to get past the World No 98
The 26-year-old made a return at WTA level at last year’s French Open after missing a full year with injury and next faces 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in R2 after the American received a first round bye.
“I’ve seen her training on Instagram,” Gavrilova said in her court-side interview. “She doesn’t look rusty at all.
“I’m just really enjoying tennis. I feel like I’m playing good tennis consistently and I’ve had good training blocks,” added the former World No 20, who has been managing ongoing Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis and is relishing her improved fitness.
“Not having modified training brings me so much joy,” she said. “I’m feeling like I can sprint to any ball. Not being scared gives me confidence.”
Russia’s Varvara Gracheva claimed the first comeback victory of the week, winning from a set and a break down over Aussie Lizette Cabrera to battle through, 2-6 6-4 6-2.
The World No 94’s reward is a date with 2019 French Open finalist and No 8 seed Marketa Vondrousova.
Former Australian Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins of the United States, seeded 13th, beat Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure, 6-3 6-3, in just over 75 minutes, while fellow American Shelby Rogers upset the No 12 seed Fiona Ferro 6-2 7-5.
Collins faced little adversity against the World No 123, breaking serve twice in each set to advance to the second round.
As the No 13 seed, the World No 46 is one of a trio of Americans amongst the Top 16 in this draw, joining No 2 seed Sofia Kenin and No 5 seed Serena Williams.
Rogers, a two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist, who won 16 of the first 17 points of her match against Ferro to sprint out to a 4-0 lead, later rallied from 5-1 down in the second set to secure a two-set win.
Despite the deficit, Rogers never had to save a set point.
Another American, Venus Williams, also came through her opening encounter against Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, 6-2 6-1, to take on the No 4 seed, Karolina Pliskova, next.
Former World No 11 Anastasija Sevastova proved too strong for another American, Madison Brengle, securing a 6-4 6-2 victory in just 65 minutes, while compatriot Jessica Pegula pulled off an impressive win against the No 15 seed Kristina Mladenovic from France, 6-4 6-1, in an evening late upset.
Spain’s Aliona Bolsova, who had a breakthrough Grand Slam run in 2019, was also among Sunday’s early winners in the Yarra Valley event when she surrendered just 3 games in defeating India’s Ankita Raina, 6-3 6-0.
Four of the five mothers in the Yarra Valley Classic singles field were on the schedule for Sunday: Samantha Stosur, Tsvetana Pironkova, Yaroslava Shvedova and Vera Zvonareva.
Top 10 players Karolina Pliskova and Serena Williams are among those set to play second round matches on Monday after having received first-round byes. Also in action are No.9 seed Donna Vekic, No.11 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No.14 seed Nadia Podoroska.
Women’s singles, first round
- Ana Bogdan [ROU] d Kamila Rakhimova [RUS] 6-2 6-2
- Aliona Bolsova [ESP] d Ankita Raina [IND] 6-3 6-0
- Shelby Rogers [USA] d  Fiona Ferro [FRA] 6-2 7-5
- Rebecca Peterson (SWE) d [WC] Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-2 6-1
- Nina Stojanovic [SRB] d Mayar Sherif [EGY] 6-3 6-2
-  Danielle Collins d Ysaline Bonaventure [BEL] 6-3 6-3
- Tsvetana Pironkova [BUL] d Lludmila Samsonova [RUS] 6-3 6-1
- [WC] Daria Gavrilova (AUS) d Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-2 6-0
-  Marie Bouzkova (CZE) d Sam Stosur (AUS) 6-2 6-0
- Varvara Gracheva (RUS) d [WC] Lizette Cabrera (AUS) 2-6 6-4 6-2
- Venus Williams [USA] d Arantxa Rus [NED] 6-1 6-2
- Anastasja Sevastova [LAT] d Madison Brengle [USA] 6-4 6-2
- Jessica Pegula [USA] d  Kristina Mladenovic [FRA] 6-4 6-1
- Mona Barthel (GER) d [WC] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 7-5 6-3
Women’s doubles, first round
-  Ash Barty (AUS) & Jennifer Brady (USA) d Sharon Fichman (CAN) & Giuliana Olmos (MEX) 7-6(2) 6-1