Former world No. 1 Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and Daniil Medvedev underlined his status as the man to beat on day two of the Australian Open yesterday.
In the women’s draw, top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges, and former No. 1 Simona Halep won despite struggling with her serve.
However, 19-year-old US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez was defeated at the first hurdle, the 23rd seed going down 6-4, 6-2 to Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis, to the delight of the home crowd.
In Australia as a wildcard, 34-year-old Murray showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic — the Scot departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
Yet there he was, rolling back the years and rolling into round two.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray said.
“I think winning matches like today and competing against guys that are around 20 to 25 in the rankings, yeah, I’m proud of that,” the former world No. 1 said. “It’s not easy. I put a lot of work and effort in. Even since the operation I’ve had various issues as well. Kept going and, yeah, days like today make it worthwhile.”
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favorite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Novak Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
Medvedev, who conquered Djokovic in the US Open final in September last year to win his maiden Grand Slam crown, has cut a confident figure and said in the build-up that he feared nobody.
Another young talent challenging the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas. The fourth seed, who has been recovering from elbow surgery, beat Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.
There was disappointment for Casper Ruud of Norway, the eighth seed, who pulled out with an ankle injury before playing a shot.
In the women’s draw, Spanish world No. 3 Muguruza, a finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, eased past 77th-ranked Frenchwoman Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.
She admitted she came into their encounter with no knowledge of Burel’s game.
“Well, it felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” said Muguruza, a previous Slam winner at Wimbledon and Roland Garros.
There was also little trouble for Kontaveit, despite some early nerves, and Swiatek, but Romania’s Halep was far from comfortable.
Halep labored into round two 6-4, 6-3 after an error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech that saw 11 service breaks.
“I found it so difficult today, I was unsure if I could play good tennis... Hopefully this week I can play better and better,” said Halep, recently back from injury.
World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka fixed her early-season serving horrors to rally from a set down to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 against Storm Sanders.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu made her Australian Open debut in winning style, beating Sloane Stephens 6-0, 2-6, 6-1.
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