Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open comeback is over at the first hurdle after the two-time champion stumbled to a straight-sets defeat at the hands of No.16 seed Caroline Garcia on Monday night.
Playing just her third match since September 2022, former world No.1 Osaka served with venom but was ultimately outmatched by her French opponent, 6-4 7-6 (2).
A downtrodden Osaka quickly exited Rod Laver Arena to a chorus of applause from the fans as her victorious rival hailed the Japanese star’s return to tennis only six months after giving birth.
“I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player we all know she has had an amazing career,” Garcia said.
“I heard in the presentation 15 months away (from tennis) so she’s been through a lot but I’m just very glad to see her back and I hope she can enjoy her tennis now and have fun.
“She did so much for tennis in the past few years.
“Six months after giving birth she is playing quite amazing already, so we (the other players on tour) have to watch out.”
The 2019 and 2021 Australian Open champion was not at her brilliant best on her return to Melbourne Park but her level might have overcome most players in the draw on Monday night.
Garcia however was simply brilliant.
She did not concede a break point throughout the match and outgunned Osaka at her own game, unleashing 34 winners to 20 in an enthralling encounter that matched its blockbuster billing.
With the victory Garcia avenged her 2021 defeat to Osaka at Melbourne Park, when the eventual champion romped home in straight sets.
The pair’s only previous match came at the 2021 Australian Open, when Osaka romped home in straight sets.
“I felt a bit unlucky (drawing Osaka) to be honest but … there were so many players coming back (from injury) so you had the chance to play someone tough,” Garcia said.
“It’s never easy to start a Slam. I play tennis for this kind of match.”
Garcia reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park last year as the No.4 seed.
She will face Poland’s Magdalena Frech in the second round.
11.35PM: HIJIKATA FORCES DECIDER
Court 3 will run late into the night, with Rinky Hijikata focring a deciding fith set against German Jan-Lennard Struff.
After a hard-fought tussle, the Aussie managed to take the tie-breaker 7-2 to get the crowd firing.
These two have been trading body blows all night, who will outlast the other for a famous victory?
10.30PM: OSAKA STUMBLES IN FIRST SET OF RETURN
Naomi Osaka’s return to Melbourne hasn’t started off on the right foot, dropping the first set to 16 seed Caroline Garcia of France.
Garcia claimed an early break and rode that to take the first set 6-4 over the former world no. 1.
Osaka warned fans last week “a lot of time and patience” will be needed before she rediscovers her best, but is intent on making progress in her grand slam return.
Osaka returned to tennis at the Brisbane International following a 15-month hiatus after giving birth to her daughter, Shai.
10.10PM: HIJIKATA’S HOPES FADE AFTER HOT START
After a blistering start against German Jan-Lennard Struff, Rinky Hijikata is facing an uphill climb to make the second round in Melbourne.
Hijikata, who went to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows in 2023, took the first set 6-3, before the big German came back with a flourish in the second set.The 24th seed’s big hitting has caught on strongly, forcing the Aussie all over the court.
Such is his trademark, Hijikata is now playing with his sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, instead of wearing a singlet.
9.40PM: NINTH SEED BRUSHES OFF EARLY SCARE FROM AUSSIE
– Ed Bourke
Resurgent Australian Omar Jasika has bowed out of his first Australian Open match in seven years in straight sets despite briefly threatening a boilover in his clash with ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz.
The former US Open junior champion pushed the big-hitting Hurkacz to a first set tie-break but was overpowered by the Polish star in a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-2 defeat on John Cain Arena.
Jasika, 26, was playing in the main draw at Melbourne Park for the first time since he was handed a two-year ban for a positive test to cocaine in 2017.
He had won the singles and doubles junior boys’ titles at the US Open in 2014 before reaching the second round of the Australian Open in his senior grand slam debut in 2016.
The world No. 341 won through to the main draw via qualifying after a year spent in relative obscurity including low-tier tournaments in Burnie, Swan Hill and Cairns.
Jasika withstood early pressure from Hurkacz, who hit twice as many unforced errors but thumped 24 aces for the match, to force a tie-break but dropped two costly points to allow the 196cm Pole to skip away to a 7-4 victory.
9.00PM: MURRAY’S POSSIBLE SWANSONG ENDS SWIFTLY
Andy Murray’s possibly final Australian Open is already over, as the Brit walked off Melbourne Park saluting the crowd.
However, the Brit’s play was not as memorable on the court in his 6-4 6-2 6-2 loss to Tomas Martin Etcheverry.
Prominent Aussie tennis coach Roger Rasheed did not hold back in his thinking about Murray’s performance.
Rasheed, who once coached Lleyton Hewitt said the match was “difficult to watch.”
“We have been used to watching so much brilliance from him throughout his career. It is difficult to watch what he is putting out on the court,” he said on Channel 9.
Murray has been coy on his plans in 2024, and whether a return to Melbourne could be on the cards.
“Definitely a possibility that will be the last time I play here (in Melbourne)” he said.
8.35PM: THOMPSON WINS EPIC ALL-AUSSIE BATTLE
– Jay Clark
Frustrated Aussie Jordan Thompson has labelled his home open the “wokest tournament ever” as he overcame countryman Aleksandar Vukic in a five-set thriller on Monday.
Thompson’s frustration at a new rule allowing fans to move to their seats at the end of games saw the Aussie blow-up midway through the second set as he booked a second-round tussle against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Thompson, 29, faces a huge challenge to pip the No. 7 seed but will have gained confidence from a 2023 win over Tsitsipas at the BNP Paribas Open in March.
Thompson, from Sydney, seemed unaware of the controversial new stadium rule change which left him looking annoyed as he waited for fans to sit down when he was up 3-1 in the second set.
He quizzed the umpire about the interruption from patrons and then launched when he was told they were allowed to move at the end of each game.
“You’re kidding me, really? Oh my God,” Thompson said.
“This is the wokest tournament ever.”
Later the 47th-ranked Aussie added: “It’s just not smart.”
Regardless, Thompson bounced back from the irritation and more frustration in the fourth set when he slammed his racquet into the court after dumping a volley into the net down 5-2.
But, in a four-hour arm-wrestle between the two top-100 ranked Aussies, Thompson kept his emotions in check in the fifth and produced some stunning play at the net to prevail in the energy-sapping contest 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 3-6 6-4.
8.25PM: DEMON FALTERS IN FIRST STEP OF GIANT TEST
– Callum Dick
Alex de Minaur’s Australian Open campaign is off to a spluttering start after the Aussie No.1 dropped the opening set of his first round clash to Canadian Milos Raonic.
World No.10 de Minaur received one of the worst possible opening round draws when his name was put alongside the former world No.3 and Wimbledon finalist, Raonic.
And the big-serving Canadian, currently ranked outside the top 300 after almost two years off with injury, has made his presence felt early on Rod Laver Arena.
Riding a dominant service game, Raonic clinched the opening set in a tiebreak 7-6 (8).
De Minaur was rated the fifth-best returner on the ATP Tour last year but he has looked almost powerless against the Raonic serve so far.
Raonic is a former semi-finalist at Melbourne Park and boasts a 34-11 win-loss record.
8.15PM: ‘DISRESPECTFUL, UNPREPARED’: TENNIS LEGEND’S COMMENTARY SMASHED
ESPN and Channel 9 commentator and tennis legend John McEnroe has come under fire for his treatment of some players on commentary, described as “disrespect.”
McEnroe has been accused of being disrespectful to players by saying he does not know who they are, today being Belgian Zizou Bergs.
“Insane to me that time and time again J. McEnroe goes on air and just admits he has zero clue who a player is,” US college tennis champion Thai-Son Kwiatkowski posted on X.
Prominent tennis writer Ben Rothenberg joined the outrage, saying McEnroe was admitting he was unprepared to his audience.
This is not the first occurrence of such criticism however, with former Aussie tennis star, now also a commentator at Channel 9 John Millman having his say on the matter in July 2023.
8.00PM: DJOKER LAST KING OF MELBOURNE STANDING
– Callum Dick
Novak Djokovic is the only former Australian Open champion left in the men’s draw after Stan Wawrinka suffered a fifth-set fadeout on Monday afternoon.
The popular 2014 champion’s 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-0 defeat to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino came only hours before five-time runner-up Andy Murray’s straight-sets defeat on the same court.
Fans flocked in their thousands to watch the two superstars in action on Kia Arena and were treated to some vintage tennis, though neither could clinch a second-round berth.
Murray was comprehensively beaten by 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry, 6-4 6-2 6-2.
It was just the second time since 2008 he lost in the opening round at Melbourne Park, where he is a five-time runner-up.
The 36-year-old’s incredible run to the third round last year was one of the talking points of the first week of the tournament. He famously defeated Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in a five-set epic on Margaret Court Arena that finished close to 4am.
7.45PM: THOMPSON-VUKIC BATTLE GOES THE DISTANCE
The all-Aussie clash is headed to a decider, after Aleksander Vukic claimed the fourth set over compatriot Jordan Thompson.
This marathon match has enthralled fans on Court 3 for hours, and now the two will all come down to who holds their nerve in the final set.
2023 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas awaits the winner of this match, probably enjoying the two going at it in a slugfest in the heat.
7.15PM: DASHA’S RETURN ENDS EARLY
– Ed Bourke
Melbourne Park crowd favourite Daria Saville left the court shaking her head after struggling badly with her serve on the way to a first-round exit at the Australian Open.
The Australian wildcard saved four match points against Polish world No. 69 Magdalena Frech but was eventually made to pay for 14 double faults as she succumbed to a 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 5-7 defeat at John Cain Arena on Monday evening.
Saville cost herself the second set with three consecutive double faults in one service game as she gave up an early break to Frech, and ended up losing more games on her serve than she won as her Polish opponent prevailed in a match spanning more than three hours.
The 29-year-old only landed 56 per cent of her first serves and had 62 unforced errors to her opponent’s 38 in a disappointing early exit from the tournament following her red-hot form at last week’s Hobart International.
She twice threw her racquet at the ground after double faults cost her points during the tense encounter with Frech, who will play either Naomi Osaka or 16th seed Caroline Garcia in the second round.
Saville, who was granted one of the final wildcard spots in the main draw at the expense of the higher-ranked Australian Arina Rodionova, vindicated Tennis Australia’s decision with three top-50 scalps in Hobart as she reached the semi-finals and brought her world ranking surging up to No. 152.
She will remain in Melbourne to partner Ajla Tomljanovic in the women’s doubles beginning on Wednesday.
7.00PM: DEMON’S GIANT TASK AWAITS ON RLA
Aussie Alex De Minaur’s tournament is about to get underway, with the challenge of the giant Milos Raonic waiting for him.
Raonic, a former Wimbledon runner-up and five-time Australian Open quarter-finalist, is hardly the cushy opening-round draw often expected for one of the top seeds.
After almost two years away from the tour battling injury, the 33-year-old Canadian is back up and running and ready to break Aussie hearts.
The former world No. 3 has saved his best tennis for Melbourne Park, where he has a 34-11 win-loss record and has reached the fourth round or better eight times.
Another thriller could be on deck at RLA.
6.35PM: DON’T COUNT OUT STAN JUST YET
– Chris Cavanagh
Big-hitting Swiss star Stan Wawrinka has not ruled out returning for a 19th Australian Open next year despite a second successive first-round exit from the tournament.
The popular 2014 Australian Open champion suffered a fifth-set fade-out in his match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino on Monday, falling 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-0.
However, Wawrinka still managed to provide plenty of highlights for an adoring crowd at Kia Arena as he pulled out some vintage shots just over two months short of his 39th birthday.
“It was a great atmosphere on this court,” Wawrinka said.
“It was really nice to play. A lot of support, I really enjoyed it.
“Unfortunately, I’ve already lost, but it’s always something special to be here, especially with the fans.
“It was a bit tough at the end. (I) couldn’t really push myself more. I didn’t do the work I wanted in the offseason because I got injured in the last tournament. So it was a race a bit to come back here. But I’m quite happy with the 10 days I had here.”
6.25PM: THOMPSON EXPLODES AT ‘WOKEST’ GRAND SLAM
Aussie Jordan Thompson is in a tight tussle with Aleksander Vukic on Court 3, and his emotions may be getting the better of him.
Thompson exploded at the new rule, that allows patrons to roam through the court in between points.
“You’re kidding me, really? Oh my god,” he said. “This is the wokest tournament ever.”
6.00PM: TSITSIPAS DETAILS ‘ASTONISHING RECOVERY’
– Chris Cavanagh
One of the biggest threats in the men’s draw of the Australian Open has shrugged off concerns over a back injury, saying he had made an “astonishing” return to fitness.
Stefanos Tsitsipas had entered this year’s tournament under an injury cloud, having pulled out of a United Cup match earlier this month and again been hampered during a charity match with Novak Djokovic last Friday night.
However, there were few signs of the injury as the popular Greek star broke the back of little-known Belgian opponent Zizou Bergs on Rod Laver Arena on Monday afternoon, overcoming a surprise first-set loss to triumph 5-7 6-1 6-1 6-3.
Last year’s runner-up at Melbourne Park, Tsitsipas said he was feeling ready to achieve big things this year after the back battles hampered him last year.
“My recovery has been astonishing in a way because it’s been quick, quicker in fact than any other player,” Tsitsipas said.
“I’ve done anything that I had under my control to get back on court as soon as possible. It’s a tricky part of the year because the year has just ended and you typically get two weeks off and then you’re back into the court working on your tennis, trying to come up with new stuff that might serve you well in 2024.
“I was away from that, trying to recover, trying to use machines and equipment that I used for these kind of injuries and I didn’t spend that much time on court.
“It was a tricky part of the preseason to be faced with something like this. But now I’m healthy. I’m headed to the right direction. I feel like I can keep adding to it and eventually see myself the way I was able to play at the beginning of last year.”
5.30PM: SAVILLE IN THRILLER ON AO RETURN
– Ed Bourke
Melbourne Park fan favourite Daria Saville has narrowly won the first set of her home grand slam comeback in a tie-break.
The Australian wildcard squandered an early break against Polish world No. 69 Magdalena Frech and battled issues with her serve but rallied to calim the tie-break 7-5.
Saville, 29, won the hearts of Aussie fans with her consecutive runs to the fourth round of the Open in 2016-17 which helped her reach No. 20 in the world.
Saville earnt one of the final wildcards into the main draw after reeling in her world ranking from 322 to 209 following a nine-month lay-off due to an ACL injury suffered on court.
That ranking then rocketed up to 152 last week after she beat three top-50 players on her way to the semi-final of the Hobart International.
A clash against returning two-time champion Naomi Osaka, who Saville was playing when she ruptured her ACL, or 16th seed Caroline Garcia awaits the winner of this match.
Osaka and Garcia are due to play in the final match on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
5.25PM: DUCKWORTH’S PARTY COURT VIBES SHUT DOWN
– Callum Dick
Top seeds be damned, James Duckworth became the Monday afternoon drawcard at Melbourne Park as the Aussie ace got the Party Court rocking to the beat of his booming groundstrokes.
While former champions and finalists commanded top billing on Rod Laver and Kia Arenas, it was in the crowd at Court 6 that proved the place to be as Duckworth went to five sets against Frenchman Luca Van Assche.
If you weren’t in the stands, you wanted to be. That became quickly apparent to anyone walking past as a cacophony of noise rang out on repeat.
The walkway between the outside courts was squeezing room only as hundreds crammed in to catch a glimpse of Duckworth and his posse of partygoers.
Decked out this year with a 400-capacity Courtside Bar, Court 6 – the Party Court – has already become a divisive addition to Melbourne Park.
On Sunday it came under fire from Arthur Rinderknech, who did not appreciate being on the receiving end of some close quarters abuse during his near-five hour epic against Russian Pavel Kotov.
“Some stupid – I won’t even say the country – guys that were drunk were shouting at me every time I was missing my first serve, and I don’t think that’s really correct,” Rinderknech recounted after the match.
5.15PM: NICK KYRGIOS EXPOSED AS OLD TWEET RESURFACES
Eagle-eyed social media users have called out Nick Kyrgios after the tennis bad boy heaped praise on Croatian sensation Dino Prizmic on Sunday night.
Prizmic won many admirers for his first-round heroics as he pushed Novak Djokovic to the limit in a four-hour clash – and Kyrgios was among them, heaping praise on the young star after watching the match in his role as a commentator for Eurosport.
“That was four hours of pure entertainment,” Kyrgios said after the match.
“As soon as I saw him strutting his thing, he reminded me of that Holger Rune style energy.
“That’s the longest match in the first round of a slam in Novak’s career, that’s pretty crazy for an 18-year-old.
“I like him, he’s one of my favourite players after that performance. I’d give him some serious energy!”
However Kyrgios was left red-faced when a tweet he made about Prizmic from last year re-surfaced.
In reply to a post from prominent tennis journalist Craig Gabriel, who noted Prizmic had lost in the Croatia Open Umag quarter-finals to Australian Alexei Popyrin, Kyrgios was less effusive in his praise for the rising star.
“Who are some of these players haha,” Kyrgios said.
Swedish tennis fan Erik Jonsson was one of those to point out Kyrgios’ recent change of heart.
“It’s almost as if watching tennis makes you learn about those playing the sport,” Jonsson said.
4.50PM: WAWRINKA LEAVES MELBOURNE PARK FOR MAYBE THE LAST TIME
Former Aus Open champion Stan Wawrinka’s tournament is done after he was blown away by Adrian Mannarino in the fifth set at Melbourne Park.
Wawrinka took a two sets to one lead, but could not keep up the momentum, fading away to fall to the number 20 seed.
The Swiss champion walked off to a thunderous applause, with this being his possible final game in Melbourne.
4.15PM: ‘WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME’: BELGIAN SLAMMED FOR EFFORT
– Chris Cavanagh
Belgian lucky loser Zizou Bergs has been slammed for a sloppy showing on Rod Laver Arena, sharply dropping away after surprisingly taking the first set off seventh-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Bergs was brought into the main draw of the Australian Open on Sunday to face Tsitsipas after Matteo Berrettini withdrew from the tournament with a right foot injury.
However, after his promising start with a 7-5 first set win over last year’s Australian Open runner-up, the Belgian fell in a hole.
Bergs lost each of the next two sets 1-6.
He called for a doctor during the third set, complaining of cramping and a headache.
However, commentators said he needed more than just some supplements, slamming his lack of fight on the tournament’s show court.
Commentator Wally Masour said during the third set that Bergs was “wasting everyone’s time”, adding that his fitness level was “in the basement”.
“Something about this match is not a good advertisement for our sport,” Masour said.
“When you consider all of the great tennis on this very court since the Australian Open moved here in 1988, it deserves a little better, Rod Laver Arena, than what we’re seeing.”
Ranked 129 in the world, the 24-year-old Bergs was making only his third Grand Slam appearance.
3.45PM: POPYRIN BOOKS DATE WITH DJOKER
– Ed Bourke
Australian world No. 43 Alexei Popyrin will face Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open after winning his all-Aussie showdown with local boy Marc Polmans in straight sets on Monday.
The 24-year-old, who reached the third round of the Australian Open last year with two marathon wins including the second-round upset of eighth seed Taylor Fritz, smashed 56 winners to Polmans’ 22 in a show of strong form ahead of his confrontation with Djokovic.
Popyrin was tested early by the wildcard in a big-serving display but eventually broke his resistance to book a date with the world No. 1 with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 victory.
It comes as the Serbian superstar revealed he was battling illness leading into his clash against Croatian teen Dino Prizmic on Sunday night and said he felt “under the weather” following the four-set win.
Though he said the extra day’s rest before the second-round match on Wednesday would leave him in a good position to face his Australian opponent.
“Look, it is what it is. You just have to try to deal with it and get over it and accept the circumstances and try to make the most of it,” Djokovic said after the win.
“I will discuss with my team tomorrow, see if I maybe skip practice tomorrow, tennis practice. Maybe do some light work, gym, jog, some specific exercises just to keep my body in shape.
“I mean, last year I haven’t practised in between any match really. It was different circumstances because I was injured. I think now with two days, it’s quite useful after playing four-hour opening round.”
3.05PM: FRENCHMAN RETIRES IN TEARS AFTER CRAMP SAGA
– Chris Cavanagh
Flashy Frenchman Terence Atmane has been left in tears after being forced to retire in his first appearance at a Grand Slam.
Atmane cramped badly in his right quad during the second set of his match against third seed Daniil Medvedev, after he had taken the first set 7-5.
Ranked No.144 in the world, Atmane was struggling to move and was forced to serve underarm to get to a break.
He smashed a racquet on the way to the break but bravely played on after receiving treatment and taking a dose of electrolytes.
Medvedev was 1-0 up in the fourth set when Atmane retired, before the 22-year-old broke down on his bench and then left the court with a towel draped over his bowed head.
Medvedev himself had some sore hamstrings during the match and was struggling to move freely at times in what was his first match of the year after enjoying an extended off-season break.
The Russian moves through to the second round of the tournament after the triumph, 5-7 6-2 6-4 1-0.
2.55PM: BELGIAN BOILOVER? 2023 RUNNER-UP IN TROUBLE
– Chris Cavanagh
A little-known Belgium who was added to the Australian Open main draw on Sunday has taken the first set against last year’s tournament runner-up.
Zizou Berge – who was forced to pull out of his final qualifying match last Friday due to a full body cramp in the second set – received a late reprieve as a lucky loser at Melbourne Park after Matteo Berrettini withdrew from the tournament with a right foot injury.
Burge took 61 minutes to win the first set over Tsitsipas 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena, holding serve after the last game of the set went to deuce five times.
Berge had played in the Australian Open last year but lost his first-round match.
Ranked No. 129 in the world, the 24-year-old is featuring at only his third Grand Slam overall.
Tsitsipas withdrew from a United Cup match earlier this month with a lingering back injury, which agains caused him trouble during his ‘A Night with Novak and Friends’ charity match last Friday night.
The popular Tsitsipas is the seventh seed at the Australian Open this year.
2.45PM: POPYRIN CREEPS CLOSER TO DJOKOVIC DATE
Australian world No. 43 Alexei Popyrin is one set away from a second-round date with Novak Djokovic but is meeting fierce resistance from countryman Marc Polmans in a big-serving clash on John Cain Arena.
Popyrin, who reached the third round of last year’s Open after he stunned eighth seed Taylor Fritz in five sets, took the first set 6-3 but was forced into a tiebreak by the South-African born Polmans.
He won four consecutive points to race away from 3-3 and claim the second set, but wildcard Polmans found more consistency with his first serve and could prove difficult to break again after some early yips handed Popyrin the advantage in the opening set.
The winner of the clash will face Djokovic on Wednesday after the world No. 1 was pushed to four sets by Croatian teen Dino Prizmic on the opening night.
Polmans is donning a legionnaires hat and has a group of a dozen diehard supporters in the crowd doing the same – expect the number of that sunsmart contingent to grow dramatically in size if he can come back to upset Popyrin.
2.30PM: WIMBLEDON CHAMP’S STUNNING FIRST-ROUND HUMILIATION
Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova crashed out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle Monday, succumbing to Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska 6-1, 6-2.
The Czech seventh seed pulled out of the warm-up Adelaide International last week with a hip injury and her court movement appeared to be impaired in Melbourne.
She lost her opening service game and never got back in the contest as 93rd-ranked Yastremska took control on John Cain Arena, surging through the first set in just 31 minutes.
Vondrousova, who beat Australian Open sixth seed Ons Jabeur for her breakthrough at the All England Club in July, was broken again at the start of the second set and there was no way back.
“Today was a really nice game,” said Yastremska, who hit 26 winners to Vondrousova’s five.
“I was a little bit nervous, but I just tried to enjoy myself. Today, I felt huge support from the crowd.”
It was her fourth career win over a top-10 player, most recently beating then world number three Barbora Krejcikova in Dubai in 2022.
Yastremska, whose best showing at Melbourne Park is a third-round appearance in 2019, will next play France’s Varvara Gracheva, who is unseeded.
2.20PM: FRENCH MELTDOWN: CRAMPS, UNDERARM SERVE, RACQUET SMASH
– Chris Cavanagh
Flashy Frenchman Terence Atmane has smashed a racquet in frustration after being overcome by a major cramp in his right quad during his first-round match with Daniil Medvedev.
Atmane was struggling to move and was forced to serve underarm to get to a break and receive treatment after the cramp came on when he was on serve at 1-1 in the third set.
A qualifier who is ranked 144 in the world, Atmane had started the match on fire as he took the first set 7-5.
However, Medvedev fought back to take the second set 6-2.
The match is Atmane’s first against a top-10 player in what is the 22-year-old’s first Grand Slam appearance.
Medvedev won 66 matches last year and a record five titles on the ATP Tour.
2.00PM: POPYRIN MAKING MOVES TOWARDS NOVAK CLASH
Australian livewire Alexei Popyrin is eyeing off a showdown with world No.1 Novak Djokovic – and is gunning down a fellow Aussie to get there.
The big-hitting Sydney star took the first set against countryman Marc Polmans, with the pair currently duelling it out in the second set.
The reward will be a date with Djokovic, who had to drag himself through a gruelling four-hour slog on Sunday night.
Elsewhere on court men’s third seed Daniil Medvedev is in a tough showdown of his own, losing the first set to France’s Terence Atmane before fighting back to win the second and be up a break in the third.
1.30PM: TEEN STAR SMASHES THROUGH TO SECOND ROUND
– Rebecca Williams
Teenage star Coco Gauff’s first tournament as a grand slam champion has started in winning form after she advanced to the second round of the Australian Open in straight sets.
Casting aside her earlier displeasure over a USTA social media post, Gauff claimed a 6-3 6-0 win over Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in an hour on Rod Laver Arena.
The Australian Open is Gauff’s first major since she won her first grand slam at the US Open last year and is the No.4 seed at Melbourne Park.
Asked if she felt any difference returning to the Australian Open as a grand slam champion, Gauff said she was able to draw on her US Open experience to push through her opening round match.
“I think I am always nervous in the first rounds of slams and then, honestly, that gave me more confidence today,” Gauff said on court after her win.
“My first round at the US Open was a tough first round so I knew I could get through those tough moments in the match and I think that’s when I was able to buckle down at 3-3 and pretty much take off from there.
“Honestly, when I was nervous at 3-3, I just told myself, I literally said ‘I feel good, I look good’ so just have fun and that was able to relax me a little bit.
“That’s why I play tennis to have fun so I remind myself.”
Gauff has twice reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park, but is yet to play finals here.
12.55PM: ‘BLANKET FIX’ TO ERADICATE AUS OPEN FARCE
Australian Open officials were left embarrassed on the opening day of the event when an extended tournament – with an additional day added- and plans to eradicate obscene late-night finishes blew up in their faces.
And one particular shame, that defending champion Aryna Sabalenka was welcomed back to Melbourne Park by a sparsely populated Rod Laver Arena just before midnight, could so easily have been avoided.
In fact, there have been suggestions that a blanket rule should be in place to stop such a scenario happening at all.
In a lively discussion on The Tennis Podcast, it was suggested that Sabalenka’s match should’ve been played prior to the Novak Djokovic-Dino Prizmic epic. And that should be the new normal.
“I just think there should be a blanket policy that you can’t schedule any match after a best-of-five set match. You can’t have a second night session match after best-of-five,” said co-host Catherine Whitaker.
Co-host Matt Roberts noted the recently introduced ATP-WTA rules which prevent matches from starting after 11pm, which have been brought in to limit the number of farcical late finishes.
“The big one is they absolutely have to start with the women’s matches at night – it’s simply unacceptable for matches to be starting at 11.41,” Roberts said.
“That’s 41 minutes after the tours have just decided that is too late for matches to be starting.
“That is 71 minutes after that match would’ve been moved if it was on the tour – the new Tour policy is ‘10.30, we’re going to move to a new court’.
“The whole point is that that walking out moment onto court is the one chance you get as a defending champion to return to the court for the first time since you won it, and receive the applause and the ovation you deserve.
“That was simply taken away from Aryna Sabalenka tonight. She is never going to be a first-time defending Australian Open champion again.
“That was her moment, and it was barely a moment because there was barely anyone there to recognise it.
“No one is blaming any (members of the crowd who left) – it’s the scheduling.”
12.45PM: DOUBLES STAR LANDS $180K PAYDAY
– Rebecca Williams
Australian qualifier Storm Hunter has been guaranteed a $180,000 pay day after advancing to the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career.
The world No.1 doubles player, Hunter claimed a breakthrough singles victory at Melbourne Park after dispatching the higher-ranked Italian Sara Errani in straight sets.
In a sign of her singles ambitions for 2024, Hunter claimed a 6-4 6-3 win over the former world No.5 on Kia Arena.
The 29-year-old threw her arms in the air to celebrate the win before pointing to the crowd, describing the win as “perfect” and a “dream come true”.
Hunter reached the top of the world’s doubles rankings with Belgian Elise Mertens last year, but has made improving her singles ranking a priority this year.
The 29-year-old is ranked 179th in the world in singles, while Errani is ranked 101.
Players who reach the second round of the are guaranteed $180,000, while Hunter would have to reach the final of doubles at Melbourne Park to win more than $200,000.
Hunter has a packed schedule at the Open, playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
12.20PM: AUSSIE WILDCARD KNOCKED OUT
Australian wildcard Taylah Preston has suffered a first-round loss to Ukrainian seed Elina Svitolina.
The 18-year-old grand slam singles debut was over in under an hour as the No.19 seed powered to a 6-2 6-2 win.
Preston was earlier anointed as the next generation of Australian women’s players to watch out for by former Billie Jean Cup captain Alicia Molik.
Svitolina, a two-time quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, will face either American Kayla Day or Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova in the second round.
11.55AM: AUSSIE GUN TAKES FIRST SET AGAINST ITALIAN
The sun is shining at Melbourne Park, but there is a storm brewing on Kia Arena.
Australia’s world No.1 doubles player Storm Hunter holds the upper hand as she targets her first main-draw singles win at the Australian Open.
The Australian qualifier won her first set 6-4 against unseeded Italian former world No.5 Sara Errani.
Hunter reached the top of the world’s doubles rankings with Belgian Elise Mertens last year, but has made improving her singles ranking a priority this year.
The 29-year-old is ranked 179th in the world in singles, while Errani is ranked 101.
Hunter has featured in the main singles draw at the Australian Open five times previously, but has bowed out each time in the first round.
11.40AM: TEEN STAR HITS OUT AT ‘HIDEOUS’ DELETED POST
Teen tennis star Coco Gauff has hit out at a ‘hideous’ cartoon and since-deleted social media post from the USTA designed to promote American players at this year’s Australian Open.
The cartoon, done in the style of the 1990s Nickelodeon show the Wild Thornberrys, displayed seeded American stars such as Gauff and world No.5 Jessica Pegula, and men’s stars Sebastian Korba, Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton in the Australian outback.
The finale of the show’s final season aired in June, 2004 – mere months after Gauff was born.
And the world No.4 Gauff was no fan of the caricature style, taking to social media to voice her displeasure.
“Worst thing I’ve ever seen,” Gauff said in an Instagram story.
“Like a caricature artist decided to make (us) all look like hideous looking people. The art style is cool for a cartoon show but not for a hype post. Foul.”
Gauff added on Twitter that it “makes us all look so ugly”.
11.15AM: ‘WHO KNOWS DOWN THE TRACK’: AUSSIE GREAT FUELS BARTY RUMOURS
Australian tennis great Ash Barty is back at Melbourne Park – and looks like she’s ready to go deep into the second week.
The only problem is the three-time grand slam champion, and new mum, is still happily retired.
But will that remain the case?
Barty retired shortly after winning the 2022 Australian Open and in July last year she gave birth to a son. But Australian tennis fans are forever hopeful that the 27-year-old’s competitive fires reignite.
And one comment from one-time Fed Cup teammate Alicia Molik raised eyebrows on Monday.
“She looks like she could be competing in this Australian Open,” Molik said as footage played of Barty spinning a racquet on her finger.
“Who knows down the track… It is wonderful we have the opportunity to see her.”
10.45AM: DJOKOVIC HITS OUT OPEN ORGANISERS OVER NEW RULE
– NCA Newswire
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has given a serve to Australian Open organisers about a new rule allowing fans to move around the stadium in between games, rather the traditional change of ends.
Djokovic said he wasn’t aware of the new rule which allowed for more fan movement and said it had a negative impact on his match and not the positive one tournament organisers were hoping for
“I did not know about that new policy or new rule,” he said
“Look, I mean, I understand the motive behind it is to enhance and improve the experience for fans, right? We do play for fans. We want fans to have a great, thrilling experience of being out on the court.
“It’s hard, I must say. I understand that and I support it to some extent, but at the same time all my career, all my life I’ve been used to some kind of atmosphere. When that changes, it kind of messes up, distracts you a bit.
“Today we lost quite a bit of time when they were letting people in to come to their seats, even though it was not a changeover. My opponent would wait for them to sit down. It dragged a lot.
“I don’t know if it’s really the best rule, but I do understand from a tournament and fan perspective it’s probably better because they don’t want to wait. They want to come out and enjoy every single point.
“I’m kind of divided between the two in a way”
10.30AM: HALF AN HOUR UNTIL DAY TWO GETS UNDERWAY
Live tennis is almost upon us – with seventh seed Marketa Vondrousova and fiery Ukranian Dayana Yastremska first up on John Cain Arena, which precedes an all-Australian clash between Alexei Popyrin and wildcard Marc Polmans.
In the day’s other early matches, Australian qualifier Storm Hunter has Italian veteran Sara Errani in her sights, and wildcard Taylah Preston could have her hands full against 19th seed Elina Svitolina.
9.50AM: FANS FUME AS AUSTRALIA ROBBED OF FIRST-ROUND EPIC
It was the five-set epic which should have given tennis fans the perfect start to their Australian Open experience – except that it was given a free-to-air blackout.
Australian Chris O’Connell’s gruelling four-hour victory over World No.88 Cristian Garin was a gripping encounter for those lucky enough to get to Court 3 to watch the pulsating encounter.
The gritty Aussie twice fought back, after dropping the first and third sets, to send the match to a deciding fifth set. Only fans were left scratching their heads about how to watch it.
The early portion of the match had been broadcast on Channel 9, before being switched to a secondary channel to accommodate for the news at 6pm.
However once the tennis coverage returned after the news, the focus was on previewing Novak Djokovic’s clash with rising star Dino Prizmic – while Australia’s Jason Kubler, who went down in five sets in his own first-round epic, was given priority over O’Connell on the back-up channel.
Meaning many fans missed out as O’Connell launched his Open campaign with a stirring fightback in the fifth set to win 3-6 7-5 4-6 6-1 7-5.
Viewers attempting to watch the conclusion of the match needed to stream it either on 9Now or the subscription service Stan Sport – however on social media fans vented their fury.
“Channel 9 waits till Chris O’Connell is into the 5th set, then makes him disappear. Just imagine how these morons will butcher the Olympics,” wrote Albie Patts on Twitter.
O’Connell will next face the winner of 16th seed Ben Shelton and Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut, who play later on Monday.
9.15AM: THE AUSSIE WHO CAN CASH IN ON NOVAK EPIC
Novak Djokovic’s gruelling four-hour first-round victory was an energy-sapping affair – but two Australians would’ve enjoyed it more than most.
Djokovic booked his place in the second round with his four-set victory over Croatia’s Dino Prizmic, and he’ll face an Australian, with Alexie Popyrin and Marc Polmans battling on Monday for the right to face the world No.1.
And when you’re up against the GOAT, you need to take every advantage at your disposal.
So the Australian pair would’ve been cheering every energy-sapping point Djokovic was dragged into.
“He’s the master of in-match management, of tournament management. But he is approaching 37 years old and that was not only an extraordinarily long match, but a physical, long match,” noted tennis journalist Catherine Whitaker.
“He was suffering out there, Novak Djokovic. Is that the sort of suffering he could feel in his legs later in the tournament?”
The general consensus among her colleagues on The Tennis Podcast was no, not really…. Unless, of course, he gets dragged into another dogfight.
“I think Popyrin is dangerous if he plays (Novak). That’s not ideal, in my view,” said David Law.
“(But) generally (Novak) going to win most of his matches quite efficiently from here.
“It is stating the obvious, but Father Time will get him eventually. And we’re all just fascinated to know when that will be. And in a way Djokovic is too – he’s fascinated about how long he can keep this going for.”
8.30AM: THE REST OF DAY TWO ACTION ANALYSED
In-form US Open champion and fourth seed Coco Gauff kicks off the day’s action on centre court, fresh from defending her Auckland Classic title in the lead-up.
The 19-year-old American faces Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and will be followed on court by seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose job became a lot easier when opponent Matteo Berrettini withdrew with a foot injury on Sunday.
Tsitsipas, who powered into the final last year but was no match for a dominant Novak Djokovic, was due to meet the former world No.6 Italian but will now face Belgian lucky loser Zizou Bergs.
In another standout match, dangerous Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime will spar with Austrian 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem on Margaret Court Arena.
The winner of that clash could face Daniil Medvedev in the third round, should the Russian get past French qualifier Terence Atmane.
Medvedev, a Melbourne finalist in 2021 and 2022, has pledged to be “more mature’ this year and cut out the tantrums that are a hallmark of his game.
“Hopefully I can achieve it this season, and we’re going to see a new Daniil Medvedev,” he said.
Other players in action on day two include five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, and women’s sixth seed Ons Jabeur.
8.00AM – OSAKA RETURN HEADLINES DAY TWO
Naomi Osaka makes her comeback to grand slam tennis on day two of the Australian Open Monday.
New mum Osaka, 26, stepped away from the sport in September 2022, citing mental health concerns.
After giving birth to a baby girl, Shai, in July, the Japanese star decided to return for the 2024 season, but she has a huge first hurdle to clear in 16th-seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.
They will grace Rod Laver Arena in the evening session, following on from Australian 10th seed Alex de Minaur’s clash with big-serving Canadian veteran Milos Raonic.
“I have a much more positive mindset and a much more grateful mindset,” four-time grand slam champion Osaka said of returning to Melbourne, the scene of her title-winning exploits in 2019 and 2021.
“Super-excited to be back. It’s been really fun so far.”
Originally published as Australian Open 2024 day 2: Latest news, results and highlights from Melbourne Park