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Australian Open: Daniil Medvedev starts strong with straight sets win over Laaksonen

Associated Press | Updated on: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 02:05 PM IST

Daniil Medvedev | Photo: AFP
Daniil Medvedev | Photo: AFP
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The Australian Open started well for second-seeded Daniil Medvedev, one of the biggest potential beneficiaries of Novak Djokovic's deportation.

Aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win his second major title on his next Grand Slam appearance, Medvedev had a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over Henri Laaksonen on Tuesday in the first round at Melbourne Park.

Defending champion Djokovic was already back in Serbia, two days after losing his legal challenge to stay in Australia despite being unvaccinated against Covid-19, when Medvedev went onto Rod Laver Arena and raced through the first set in 26 minutes.

Nobody has dominated on that court like Djokovic, who was unbeaten in the nine finals he reached at the Australian Open. Medvedev was the most recent recipient of one of those beatings, losing last year's championship match.

But he avenged that with his breakthrough major title at the US Open, where his victory meant Djokovic's bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam finished one win short.

"I like pressure," he said.

"Always want to do better than I did last year (but) it's not going to be easy."

That's something Leylah Fernandez has had to confront.

The 19-year-old Canadian lost 6-2 6-4 to 133rd-ranked wild-card entry Maddison Inglis in her first Grand Slam match since her runner-up finish at the US Open.

Fernandez made 30 unforced errors, dropped her serve three times and hit only eight winners on 1573 Arena against Inglis, who converted her third match point to complete her very first win in the main draw of a major.

"Today was just not a good day. Too many mistakes," Fernandez said.

She lost in the first round at last year's Australian Open to then defending champion Sofia Kenin.

For Fernandez, the venue and the vibe were a long way from her run to the final at Flushing Meadows, where she lost to Emma Raducanu. Raducanu was scheduled to play later Tuesday against 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

The third-seeded Muguruza, meanwhile, kept a perfect streak intact when she won her first-round match at the Australian Open for the 10th straight time, beating No. 77-ranked Clara Burel 6-3 6-4 to open play on Rod Laver Arena on Day 2.

A runner-up in Australia in 2020 to Kenin - who was a first-round loser on Monday - Muguruza said she's always extra cautious early in a big tournament.

"I am aware, I am aware," Muguzura said, laughing, when asked if she knew her Melbourne Park streak.

"Very tricky. You're always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign. I've always gone through the first round.

"Very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves." Third-seeded Muguruza will next play French veteran Alize Cornet, who beat Viktoriya Tomova 6-3 6-3.

Sixth-seeded Anett Kontaveit, runner-up to Muguruza at least year's WTA Finals, had a 6-2 6-3 win over Katerina Siniakova. Seventh-seeded Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, opened with a 6-3 6-0 win over 123rd-ranked British qualifier Harriet Dart.

Also advancing were No. 10 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 14 Simona Halep, a former No. 1 and a two-time major winner who reached the 2018 final here at Melbourne Park.

No. 19 Elise Mertens beat Vera Zvonareva 6-4 7-5, and former US Open champion Sam Stosur rallied to beat Robin Anderson of the US 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-3 to start her 20th - and last - Australian Open campaign.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost to Sorana Cirstea of Romania for the second straight year, this time 6-2 6-2 in the first round.

"Yeah, I think that she likes my game, that she just is going for it," Kvitova, an Australian Open finalist three years ago, said.

"I did have some health issues the whole month, as well, so it was tough to practice during home month.

"But the season is long, so I hope that it will turn around." Earlier in the men's draw, No. 5 Andrey Rublev beat Gianluca Mager 6-3 6-2 6-2, No. 11 Jannik Sinner beat Joao Sousa 6-4 7-5 6-1, No. 13 Diego Schwartzman beat Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-4 7-5 to advance along with No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 27 Marin Cilic.

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Published on: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 02:05 PM IST