Australian Open – Day 1 (1R)
16-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis  was unknown in the tennis world until the first week of 2013, when he got a surprising chance to pop up out of nowhere replacing Isner and Haas at Hopman Cup. The teenager unexpectedly shared the court with Verdasco and Djokovic which must have pumped him up emphatically. In the first round of qualifying tournament, he pushed Steve Johnson  to serving ten times to stay in the match; eventually the boy from Australia lost 4-6 7-6 15-17 after 3:47 hrs, but left the court No. 3 with very good impression. I bet he will be a future star of the game… Johnson came back on that court five days later to play the tournament’s opening match against Nicolas Almagro. The 23-year-old American saved a match point with hard serve at 5:6 in the 4th set, then another one with a brave forehand which hit an intersection of baseline and sideline. Despite losing two tie-break sets, Almagro kept his composure because winning service games was easy for him throughout, broke three times in the decider, serving 34th ace (Johnson hit 21) to notch a 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2 6-7(6) 6-2 victory in his first encounter of the year. The 5th set scenario of that match was repeated in two other deciding sets between experienced guys and newcomers. On Hisense Arena, Fernando Verdasco seemed boiled at 1-2 *0:2, but reminded himself that in Melbourne played his career-best tournament (2009), and also with a booming serve wrapped up his 5-set win over David Goffin 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4. On Margaret Court Arena, Mikhail Youzhny, who won in Doha two weeks ago his match No. 400, somehow blew a 5:1 (40/30) lead on serve in the 2nd set against Matthew Ebden, afterwards must have used all his skills to get back on track, saved a match point with an attack to the net (one impressive cross-court backhand during the rally), and quite calmly reacted as the umpire announced 4-6 6-7(0) 6-2 7-6(4) 6-3 in his favor (3:59 hrs). Edouard Roger-Vasselin had more luck this time than in his two previous majors: he lost 8-10 in the 5th set at Wimbledon (Garcia-Lopez) and 5-7 in the 5th at US Open (Fognini). The unlucky outcome was almost repeated: he squandered a match point leading 6:5 in the 5th set against Ruben Bemelmans, and faced a scare as the Belgian was serving at 9:8 (30/0). Bemelmans couldn’t capitalize though, and the son of a Roland Garros semifinalist (Christophe Roger-Vasselin made it 30 years ago), won three games in a row to ’30’. Roger-Vasselin also escaped in the 4th set saving a mini-match point at 2:4.
Novak Djokovic is bidding for his third Australian Open title in succession, something no-one accomplished, even Andre Agassi, who was unbeaten in 26 straight matches #, but missed the 2002 edition (triumphed 2000-01 & ’03). The Serb began his title defense with a solid display (6-2 6-4 7-5) against French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu. “It was a good performance for a first round,” said Djokovic. “I felt I was in control of the match in the opening two sets. It was tough to break [in the third set]. But in the end, that 11th game, I made some good shots, good points, managed to go through in straight sets.” Djokovic’s potential semifinal opponent, David Ferrer still impresses. He needed 110 minutes to dismiss the shortest player on tour Olivier Rochus 6-3 6-4 6-2. Lleyton Hewitt made his 17th appearance in Melbourne tying John Alexander‘s achievement (Fabrice Santoro holds the record with 18), and expectations were high because he’d triumphed at Kooyong two days before, whereas his first round opponent Janko Tipsarevic retired in that event. Well, their match only confirmed that Top 10 guys don’t want to risk anything a week before majors. Tipsarevic was fully fit, hitting the ball as hard as he could and prevailed a tough 3-setter 7-6(4) 7-5 6-3 in 3 hours 2 minutes reeling off seven games in a row from a 3:5 deficit in the mid-set (Hewitt was two points away from taking two sets). Jerzy Janowicz  was approached with a pair of scissors by the umpire and instructed that he must remove an illegal sponsorship logo (Atlas) from his T-shirt after the warm-up. Perhaps it distracted concentration of the young Pole, who lost 15 out of 17 initial points against Simone Bolelli, but saved a double break point at 0:3 (15/40) and notched his first win at Melbourne Park 7-5 6-4 6-3. Janowicz didn’t come to Australia last year, he simply couldn’t afford to that because of lack of required money. The biggest upset of the day produced 21-year-old Russian Andrey Kuznetsov  overwhelming Juan Monaco 7-6(3) 6-1 6-1. The Argentine probably doesn’t care about Australia anymore keeping in mind his beloved South American swing awaits around the corner. His last two trips were limited only to Melbourne, last year he was ousted in the first round as well. Kuznetsov’s first Grand Slam win.
Longest match: 4 hours, 25 minutes. Edouard Roger-Vasselin d. Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 7-5, 11-9
Most aces: 32 – Nicolas Almagro, defeated Steve Johnson
18-11 Mikhail Youzhny, 16-11 Fernando Verdasco, 14-21 Radek Stepanek, 13-9 Nicolas Almagro, 12-6 Marcos Baghdatis, 9-9 Viktor Troicki, 8-6 Lukasz Kubot & Fabio Fognini, 3-0 Tatsuma Ito, 3-4 Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 2-1 David Goffin, 2-2 Daniel Gimeno-Traver, 2-7 Alex Bogomolov, 1-0 Roberto Bautista Agut, 1-1 Brian Baker, 1-2 Albert Ramos, 0-1 John Millman, 0-2 Steve Johnson, Ruben Bemelmans, Matthew Ebden
# Longest winning streaks in Melbourne:
26 – Andre Agassi; 20 – Ivan Lendl; 19 – Roger Federer; 18 – Jim Courier; 17 – Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander; 16 – Guillermo Vilas; 15 – Johan Kriek, Novak Djokovic
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