NO­VAK DJOKOVIC SUR­VIVES SCARE

Fed­erer, Ser­ena march into sec­ond round; Sloane Stephens makes shock exit

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Mel­bourne, Australia - No­vak Djokovic sur­vived a scare to join Roger Fed­erer and Ser­ena Wil­liams in the Aus­tralian Open sec­ond round as heavy down­pours caused chaos on Mon­day, forc­ing or­gan­is­ers to post­pone a swathe of matches.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Djokovic was made to sweat be­fore beat­ing Ger­many's Jan-Len­nard Struff in four sets on the first day, when fears over air pol­lu­tion were re­placed by dis­rup­tion caused by rain.

While play con­tin­ued at the three sta­di­ums with re­tractable roofs, half of the 64 sched­uled matches were post­poned, en­sur­ing a big back­log for Tues­day. Wet con­di­tions are un­usual for the Aus­tralian Open, which is more used to ex­treme heat and was plagued by smog from bush­fires dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing, when play­ers suf­fered cough­ing fits and breath­ing prob­lems.

Air qual­ity was rated 'good' as the first round started on Mon­day but about four hours later play was sus­pended on out­side courts when the heav­ens opened in Mel­bourne.

World No 3 Fed­erer was briefly hauled off court while the roof was closed on Rod Laver

Arena be­fore re­turn­ing to com­plete a rou­tine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 vic­tory over Amer­i­can Steve John­son.

Ser­ena, on the hunt for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam ti­tle, won the first set against Anas­ta­sia Po­tapova in just 19 min­utes as she cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 win. "I feel like I can still im­prove and get bet­ter through­out this tour­na­ment, for sure. This is a good step­ping stone for right now," Ser­ena said.

How­ever, Ser­ena's el­der sis­ter Venus was ousted in stun­ning fash­ion by 15 year old Coco Gauff, who won 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in a re­peat of her first-round up­set at Wim­ble­don last year.

In the late match, de­fend­ing cham­pion Djokovic dropped his first set since 2006 in the open­ing round be­fore re­cov­er­ing to beat Jan-Len­nard Struff 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

"There is a lot of pres­sure and a lot of dif­fer­ent emo­tions in­volved. I def­i­nitely try to re­mind my­self to stay present and re­ally en­joy," said the seven-time Mel­bourne win­ner, who brought up his 900th Tour-level vic­tory.

Former US Open cham­pion Sloane Stephens was the big­gest women's ca­su­alty on open­ing day when she crashed out in three sets to Zhang Shuai of China - her fourth first-round exit in Mel­bourne.

Shapo­valov rac­quet row

De­fend­ing cham­pion Naomi Osaka was done well be­fore the down­pour as she dis­missed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Repub­lic 6-2, 6-4 in 80 min­utes, smash­ing one pow­er­ful serve that broke a net fas­ten­ing.

"It was re­ally tough for me try­ing to con­trol my nerves," said Osaka. "It's tough to play some­one you've never played be­fore in the first round of a Grand Slam."

Later on the cov­ered cen­tre court, Aus­tralian world No 1 Ash­leigh Barty re­cov­ered strongly from a set down to beat Le­sia Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

In the men's draw, Greek sixth seed Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas, who beat Fed­erer en route to last year's semis, crushed Sal­va­tore Caruso 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.

In other re­sults, Cana­dian 13th seed De­nis Shapo­valov ar­gued fu­ri­ously with the um­pire over a code vi­o­la­tion for throw­ing his rac­quet as he lost in four sets to Mar­ton Fucso­vics.

Croa­t­ian 25th seed Borna Coric was an­other first-round loser as he went down to ex­pe­ri­enced Amer­i­can Sam Quer­rey, while Australia's Sam

Sto­sur bombed out against Caty McNally.

But former cham­pion Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, play­ing her last tour­na­ment be­fore re­tir­ing, safely reached the sec­ond round as she beat Kristie Ahn 6-1, 6-3. Other seeded player re­sults (x denotes seed­ing): Men's sin­gles first round: Mat­teo Ber­ret­tini (x8) beat An­drew Har­ris 6-3, 6-1, 6-3; Sam Quer­rey beat Borna Coric (x25) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4; Guido Pella (x22) beat John-Pa­trick Smith 6-3, 7-5, 6-4; Mar­ton Fucso­vics beat De­nis Shapo­valov (x13) 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 7-6 (7-3); Grigor Dim­itrov (x18) beat Juan Ig­na­cio Lon­dero 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4; Daniel Evans (x30) beat Macken­zie McDon­ald 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.

Women's sin­gles first round: Pe­tra Mar­tic (x13) beat Christina McHale 6-3, 6-0; Eka­te­rina Alexan­drova (x25) beat Jil Te­ich­mann 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; Pe­tra Kvi­tova (x7) beat Ka­te­rina Sini­akova 6-1, 6-0; So­rana Cirstea beat Barbora Strycova (x32) 6-2, 7-6 (7-5); Sofia Kenin (x14) beat Martina Tre­visan 6-2, 6-4; Zhang Shuai beat Sloane Stephens (x24) 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.

No­vak Djokovic

(AFP)

De­nis Shapo­valov throws his rac­quet on the floor dur­ing his match against Hun­gary's Mar­ton Fucso­vics on Mon­day

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