Winning starts for Osaka, S Williams and Federer at Australian Open






Melbourne - By Chiara Palazzo, - Australian Open title holder Naomi Osaka and former champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams kicked off the tournament with wins in straight sets on Monday at Melbourne Park.

Japanese star Osaka cleared the first hurdle to retain her crown with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Marie Bouzkova in the opening match of the tournament at the Rod Laver Arena.



Osaka, playing under a cloudy sky, had a shaky start against her Czech opponent and committed a barrage of unforced errors - including seven in the first three games of the match.
Unforced errors, 28 in total, marred the third seed's performance, handing Bouzkova a break in the second set. Osaka, however, won the following four games to close the match out in one hour and 20 minutes.
"Definitely, it was really tough for me trying to control my nerves," Osaka said after the match. "I'm really glad I was able to finish it in two sets."
Following Osaka on the main court, seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams won her opening match 6-0, 6-3 in a convincing fashion in under an hour.
The 38-year-old American, who is chasing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title, steamrolled 18-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova in the first set, grabbing the opener in just 19 minutes.
The teenager showed resilience in the second set, breaking Williams early on, but was overpowered by the former champion's nine aces and 24 winners.
"I felt like I started out very well, played really strong in the first set, just building on that," Williams said after the match.
"I feel like I can still improve throughout this tournament for sure and this a good stepping stone right now."
Amid worries during the qualifying rounds that smoke from the bush fires still devastating Australia may affect the tournament, rain appeared to be the bigger threat to a smooth start in Melbourne.
The match between six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer and American Steve Johnson was interrupted by rain early on to allow the Rod Laver Arena's roof to be closed, as was 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki's match against American Kristie Ahn.
Rain threw a spanner in the works in the busy early stages of the tournament, as only the three main courts feature retractable roofs. Play was suspended on all outside courts until at least 5:30 pm (0630 GMT).
The Danish former world number one, playing in her last tournament before retiring, eventually went on to win 6-1, 6-3 once play resumed, while the Swiss master was looking well as he grabbed the opening two sets against his American challenger in under an hour.
In a packed Margaret Court Arena, 15-year-old Coco Gauff was still battling it out with 39-year-old Venus Williams after taking the opener 7-6 (7-5), after their previous clash at Wimbledon last year.
Novak Djokovic, targeting a record-extending eighth Australian Open title, is set to play the closing bout at Rod Laver Arena against German Jan-Lennard Struff.
The Serb will follow world number one Ash Barty, who is up against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko as she begins her campaign to become the first Australian woman to win the singles home slam since 1978.

 


Monday, January 20th 2020
By Chiara Palazzo,
           


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