The Latest: Brian Baker makes return to Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The latest from the Australian Open on Tuesday (all times local):
Brian Baker made a long-awaited return to Melbourne Park three years after collapsing on the court with a torn meniscus in his right knee during a second-round match at the Australian Open.
Baker lost his opening match Tuesday against Simone Bolelli of Italy 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), but was nonetheless pleased with his progress after the latest setback in an injury-plagued career.
The 30-year-old American, once the No.2-ranked junior in the world, has been in and out of the operating room over the past decade with surgeries on both of his hips, elbow, back, a sports hernia and four surgeries on his knee. His last match before Tuesday had been at the 2013 U.S. Open.
''When you haven't played a real match in I guess it's been 2 1-2 years, I feel really comfortable out there,'' he said. ''I know that I can play with these guys.''
During his extended time off, Baker went back to school and finished his college degree at Belmont University in his native Nashville, Tennessee. He also had a lot of time to think about his career and put things in perspective.
''You learn that tennis is not the most important thing in the world, but it's still something that's important enough that I want to spend as much time doing it over the next couple of years until I can't play anymore,'' he said.
Baker is able to gain entry to eight more ATP-level tournaments this year using his protective ranking. He's also willing to start over again on the lower-rung Challenger and Future circuits if need be.
''I definitely need matches so I'm not too prideful to play at any level,'' he said.
It was double bagel time at Rod Laver Arena
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka made short work of her Belgian opponent to advance to the second round at Melbourne Park. The No. 14-seeded Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-0, 6-0 in just 53 minutes Tuesday.
Azarenka entered the tournament in strong form after winning the warmup tournament in Brisbane. She'll play Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the second round.
The former No. 1-ranked Azarenka was nearly flawless in the first set, winning 91 percent of her first-service points and allowing Van Uytvanck, a French Open quarterfinalist last year, just 13 winning points.
''I was just in a moment,'' Azarenka said. ''I really wanted to do my best on every shot and fight as hard as I could.''
Play was halted during a dramatic moment in Bernard Tomic's first-round match against Denis Istomin when a female spectator required emergency medical treatment.
People sitting nearby shouted for an EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, and a fan in the upper part of Hisense Arena responded by tossing one to another spectator, starting a chain reaction of passes until it finally reached the woman in distress.
Paramedics arrived within minutes of the woman being treated and she was helped into a wheelchair and escorted from the arena to a huge round of applause from the crowd.
Tomic and Istomin looked on with concern before they were able to resume the match in the first game of the fourth set. Tomic won the match 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
''Potentially someone's dying and we're not sure what's going on,'' Tomic said in a post-match interview. ''At one stage I was looking directly at the lady. It was not a good moment to be in.''
''At the end of the day, tennis is tennis, sport is sport. But if someone passes out or on dies on a tennis court, it can be very, very bad.''
French Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced to the second round at Melbourne Park when his opponent Dmitry Tursonov retired from their first-round match with what appeared to be an upper leg injury.
Tursonov, who received treatment from trainers, called it quits after Wawrinka won the first two sets 7-6 (2), 6-3.
The No. 4-seeded Wawrinka was the only man to beat Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam match last year, defeating the Serbian No. 1 in the final at Roland Garros. He had his Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park in 2014, when he beat Rafael Nadal in the final.
Lleyton Hewitt's retirement will have to wait at least another two days.
The Australian veteran, playing in his 20th consecutive national championship, beat fellow wild-card entry and countryman James Duckworth 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the second round.
Hewitt, who has already been named Australia's Davis Cup captain, announced last year that the Australian Open would be his final tournament. The vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena was fully behind Hewitt, despite him playing another Aussie.
The 34-year-old Hewitt, a former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, will meet David Ferrer in the second round on Thursday. The eighth-seeded Ferrer beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 earlier Tuesday.
Zhang Shuai nearly quit tennis last year when she couldn't win a match and her ranking plummeted from inside the top 50 on the WTA Tour.
The Chinese qualifier beat No. 2-ranked Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday for her first main-draw win at any Grand Slam tournament after 14 losses.
It was the most first-round defeats with no wins for any player in the top 300 in the rankings.
''I played really well today … against a great player,'' Zhang said.
And it helped restore some confidence.
''The last few months, I'm already 200, my ranking, so very tough,'' she said. ''I feeling very sad every day. I almost retired.
''But so many people help me, so give me the help. My coach, my parents, my team, also national team. My sponsor, always try to help me, give me more motivation. So I'm training hard, more hard than before.''
The No. 133-ranked Zhang, who won three matches in qualifying, will next play Alize Cornet, who beat Bojana Jovanovski 6-1, 6-0 Tuesday.
Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek has become the oldest man to win a match at the Australian Open in more than 38 years.
Stepanek, who is 37 years and 65 days old, defeated Tatsuma Ito of Japan 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in 3 hours, 16 minutes Tuesday to advance to the second round.
He is the oldest player to have won a match at the Australian Open since Bob Carmichael (38 years and 183 days) and Ken Rosewall (44 years 62 days) in 1978.
Stepanek turned pro in 1996 and reached a career-high No. 8 in 2006.
Second-seeded Simona Halep is the latest seed to fall at Melbourne Park, losing to Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai 6-4, 6-3 in just over an hour.
The No. 133-ranked Zhang overpowered the Romanian with 31 winners, including a forehand down the line on match point.
It was Zhang's first main-draw win at any Grand Slam tournament after 14 losses. It was the most first-round losses with no wins for any player in the top 300 in the rankings.
After the match, she broke into tears when asked about breaking the drought.
''I think in my life, it's the best tennis,'' she said. ''To win against a top-two player, I'm so happy, so excited.''
Halep has now lost in the first round at the Australian Open three times in the past five years (2012, 2013, 2016). She reached the final of the French Open in 2014.
Fernando Verdasco has knocked fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal out of the opening Grand Slam of the season, beating his fellow Spanish lefthander 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round.
It reversed an epic 5-hour, 14-minute semifinal the pair played in 2009 at Melbourne Park, which Nadal won in five sets and went on to take the title.
Verdasco clinched the fourth-set tiebreaker with an ace to send it to a fifth and deciding set, then after an exchange of breaks went ahead with a decisive break in the sixth game and held in the next to go up 5-2. He won the match in 4 hours, 41 minutes, on a service return winner.
Coming into the match, Nadal had won 14 of 16 previous meetings between the pair.
Andy Murray thinks it's ''hypocritical'' that tennis tournaments are sponsored by betting companies as the sport tries to combat match-fixing.
A day after reports by BBC and BuzzFeed alleged that tennis authorities were suppressing evidence of match-fixing at the sport's highest level, Murray said he didn't agree with the fact the Australian Open is being sponsored this year by a London-based betting agency.
''I think it's a little bit hypocritical, really,'' he said. ''You know, because I don't believe the players are allowed to be sponsored by betting companies but then the tournaments are. I don't really understand how it all works. I think it's a bit strange.''
Murray also said the tours should do a better job educating players – especially younger ones – what to do in case they are approached by match fixers.
''You have to be proactive I think with things like this and go and speak to the players rather than them reading about it in the newspapers or, you know, listening to it on the TV or the radio,'' he said.
''Because I know when I was growing up – I mean, certainly throughout my whole career – I was never warned about that or told about that or anyone said to me how you should handle that if you're in that situation.''
Fortunately for Milos Raonic, he didn't have to grind out a win against Lucas Pouille in the first round at Melbourne Park. He's got his teeth protected, though, just in case.
The Canadian, who beat Pouille 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, has started wearing a mouth guard during matches to prevent himself from grinding his teeth.
''It just causes stress and headaches,'' he said after the match.
Raonic said he got used to playing with the guard pretty quickly, though he acknowledged ''fiddling with it too much'' on the court.
When asked if his dentist recommended he wear it, he replied with a smile, ''No, a chiropractor. Maybe it's helping my back.''
Second-seeded Andy Murray has had little trouble advancing to the second round, beating sometime practice partner Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.
Murray, who has lost in all four finals he has contested at Melbourne Park, broke Zverev's serve to open the second and third sets and dominated his opponent throughout. Zverev wasn't helped by seven double-faults.
Murray finished off by breaking the 18-year-old Zverev's service. Murray saved all six break points he faced.
''It seemed like all the games were going to deuce,'' Murray said. ''He hung in until the end, made it tough and fought hard. He's young but he's one of the best young players in the world and he's going to be around for a long time.''
Murray will next play Samuel Groth, who beat Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (6), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Venus Williams has been knocked out of the first round 6-4, 6-2 by Britain's Johanna Konta. The eighth-seeded Williams reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park last year to kick off a resurgent season that saw her return to the top 10 for the first time since 2011.
Against Konta, however, she struggled to connect with her first serve and couldn't match the Australian-born Konta's power from the baseline. She had just one ace compared to five for the Briton.
''When the draw came out and I saw who I was playing, I thought `I just hope I stay out there more than an hour,''' Konta said after the match.
Konta was making her Australian Open debut, but has played well in the past against top-10 opponents. She beat No. 9 Garbine Muguruza on the way to the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year and also had a win over No. 2 Simona Halep.
Madison Keys had a slow start in her return to Melbourne Park, but advanced to the second round with a 7-6 (5), 6-1 win over Zarina Diyas.
Keys, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal last year at the Australian Open, fended off two set points in the ninth game before coming back to win the first in a tiebreaker. She then raced out to a 5-0 lead in the second set to put the match away.
''I think being down set point almost helped me. I thought, `You're down, keep playing. You can only lose the set,''' she said. ''I definitely had to dig deep and figure it out.''
Keys has a new coach to start the new season. Last year, she had a successful partnership with former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, reaching the second week at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
But Davenport couldn't travel fulltime with Keys because of her family and commentating responsibilities, so Keys is now working with former ATP player Jesse Levine.
Milos Raonic followed up his victory at the Brisbane International with a clinical, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 first-round win over Lucas Pouille on the second day of the season's first major.
Raonic, who at No. 13 has his lowest seeding at a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 2013, is aiming to improve on his run to the quarterfinals here last year, when he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
The 25-year-old Canadian, who recently started working with former No. 1-ranked Carlos Moya as a coach, didn't face a breakpoint on his serve and had little difficulty in winning 89 percent of points on successful first serves.
He also won points on 22 of his 30 trips to the net. Pouille, a 21-year-old Frenchman, entered the match with a 1-7 record in Grand Slam matches and with a No. 90 ranking.
Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza needed only an hour to advance through the first round, beating No. 85-ranked Anett Kontaveit 6-0, 6-4 in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena on day two.
The third-seeded Muguruza, who has reached the fourth round on two of her three previous trips to Melbourne Park, broke Kontaveit three times in a 23-minute first set and got an early break in the second.
The 22-year-old Spaniard retired during her first match at an Australian Open warmup tournament in Brisbane because of an injured left foot earlier this month but showed no signs of difficulty at Melbourne Park.
''Yeah, I had a few problems but, well, I think I'm recovered now,'' she said of the foot problem, ''so very good.''
- Adrian Mannarino
- Alexander Zverev
- Alison Van Uytvanck
- Alize Cornet
- Andy Murray
- Anett Kontaveit
- Bojana Jovanovski
- Danka Kovinic
- David Ferrer
- Denis Istomin
- Fernando Verdasco
- Garbine Muguruza
- James Duckworth
- Johanna Konta
- Lucas Pouille
- Madison Keys
- Milos Raonic
- Novak Djokovic
- Peter Gojowczyk
- Radek Stepanek
- Rafael Nadal
- Simona Halep
- Simone Bolelli
- Stan Wawrinka
- Tatsuma Ito
- Venus Williams
- Victoria Azarenka
- Zarina Diyas