Millennium Post

Maria, Fedex sizzle on Day 1

Maria, Fedex sizzle on Day 1
Second seed Federer, third seed Nadal and sixth seed Andy Murray all enjoyed straight sets wins, with rising stars Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard and Grigor Dimitrov also progressing on a cool Melbourne day.

World no. 2 Sharapova, looking for her first Australian title since 2008, swept aside Croat Petra Martic 6-4, 6-1. It was a different story for fifth seed Ivanovic, a former world number one who came to Melbourne full of confidence after a stellar 2014 that saw her climb the rankings. She started well against unheralded world number 142 Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, easily winning the first set, but then went to pieces, eventually crashing 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Swiss great Federer, gunning for his fifth Australian crown and 18th Grand Slam title, had no such problems and was in full control against Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun. He went through the motions for a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win and welcomed the workout.

“It’s early in the season and it’s tough to get rhythm, especially in the first round, but this court plays nice and we had some great rallies so it was a nice match,” said Federer.

His long-time rival Nadal showed few signs of the injuries that disrupted his 2014 season in dispatching Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, conceding just one break point on his serve. Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic and defending men’s champion Stan Wawrinka are in action on Tuesday.

World number three Halep opened the 2015 proceedings with the wind swirling around Rod Laver Arena, carving out a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Italy’s Karin Knapp. The Romanian, a quarterfinalist at Melbourne Park last year, is looking to build on a breakthrough 2014 when she reached the French Open final and the semifinal at Wimbledon.

Seventh seed Bouchard, a semifinalist in 2014, posted a solid 6-2, 6-4 win over Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam while 10th seed Dimitrov progressed with an easy 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over German Dustin Brown. At the vanguard of the new order of younger men’s players, Dimitrov said he was happy with his start but the windy conditions were challenging.

Yuki battles hard before losing to andy Murray
Meanwhile, Yuki Bhambri’s singles campaign came to an end despite a fighting effort against world number six Andy Murray but the Indian walked away with rich appreciation from his accomplished rival and the packed house at the Margaret Court Arena.

Coming into the men’s singles as a qualifier, Yuki went down 3-6, 4-6, 6-7(3) after battling hard for two hours and 13 minutes. Yuki was sharp with his strokes and surprised Murray several times with his service winners, ground strokes, especially the inside out forehand winners which he set up with good serve.

Yuki succeeded in breaking the British number one twice in the match, once each in the first and third sets. The 22-year-old was even leading 4-1 in the third set but Murray, the two-time Grand Slam champion, had enough experience to not let the Indian walk away with the set as he took three games in a row to restore parity.

To his credit, Yuki stretched the third set into a tie-break but made a poor start by double faulting on the first point. Yuki saved the first match point but sent a backhand return long on Murray’s serve to bow out. Murray also had words of praise for Yuki. “He played very aggressively.  He had an injury last year and missed 4-5 months. He should not be ranked in 300s, he will finish way up this year,” Murray said after the match.
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