Australian Open’s Day 2 highlighted by Serena, Djokovic matches
MELBOURNE, Australia — Top-ranked players Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic see their first action Tuesday at the Australian Open, as does defending men’s champion Stan Wawrinka. For the locals, veterans Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt will try, yet again, to begin a quest to win their home Grand Slam.
Stosur, who plays Monica Niculescu in the first match on Rod Laver Arena, has never advanced past the fourth round at Melbourne Park. Hewitt, playing in his 19th consecutive Australian Open, lost the 2005 final to Russian Marat Safin.
Here are a some other things to watch on Tuesday:
WILLIAMS VS. ALISON: Williams has five Australian Open singles trophies, but her last came in 2010, her longest gap between titles at Melbourne Park since she won her first in 2002. She plays Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in her first-round match on Tuesday night on Margaret Court Arena. Williams confessed on the weekend that she had no idea how to pronounce her opponent’s last name, so she will just call her "Alison." Williams, who has 18 Grand Slam titles, has never played the 20-year-old Van Uytvanck. Williams says the first round of the first Grand Slam of the year always creates added pressure: "No one wants to lose. People are thinking ‘did they do anything different in the off-season’? That’s when the pressure is on, cameras are on, everyone is looking."
DJOKOVIC AND THE QUALIFER: Djokovic missed a training session on the weekend while recovering from flu symptoms picked up during two tournaments in the Middle East. He faces Slovenian qualifier Aljaz Bedene in a day match at Rod Laver Arena, where he’s won all four finals he’s contested — in 2008, his first Grand Slam title, and then in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He lost in the quarterfinals last year to eventual champion Wawrinka, ending a streak of 14 consecutive semifinal appearances in majors and a 25-match winning streak in Melbourne.
STAN’S ENCORE: Wawrinka wore a "Stan the Man" T-shirt to his pre-tournament media conference on the weekend, and he sure was last year, beating Djokovic 9-7 in the fifth set of the quarterfinal, Tomas Berdych in the semis and Rafael Nadal in the final, his first win over a reigning No. 1. "For sure I’m looking forward to being back on the court here," Wawrinka said. "After last year, it’s going to bring me some memories, some great feeling."
COVER GUY NISHIKORI: Kei Nishikori advanced to the US Open final last year, losing to Marin Cilic, and this month, he graces the cover of the Asian edition of Time magazine. He’s plays Nicholas Almagro of Spain in his first-round match to kick off proceedings in the morning on Margaret Court Arena. Nishikori credits his recent success to coach Michael Chang, the Chinese-American star who beat Ivan Lendl for the French Open title in 1989. "He is giving me a lot of improvements and tips," Nishikori says of Chang. "My ranking is much higher than last year so for sure he is helping with my career, and it is just a good motivation working with him."
MARATHON WOMAN: Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki may be the best player on the WTA Tour to have never won a major. Now she’s also being regarded as the fittest after completing the New York City Marathon in November in just under 3 1/2 hours, a few minutes better than she expected in her first effort over the 26-mile (42-kilometer) distance. Wozniacki takes on American Taylor Townsend in her first-round match, the 24-year-old Danish player’s 32nd Grand Slam tournament and her eighth appearance in Melbourne. She’s not concerned about the lack of a major on her CV, and sounds like a long-distance runner when she says: "It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon."