Indoor Sports

Auger-Aliassime, Andreescu, Shapovalov win opening matches at Australian Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime shrugged off a sluggish start to defeat Vasek Pospisil 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 in an all-Canadian first-round matchup at the Australian Open on Monday.

Auger-Aliassime will meet Slovakia’s Alex Molcan in the second round. Molcan outlasted Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka 6-7 (3), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in a match that lasted four hours 22 minutes.

Auger-Aliassime, of Montreal, is looking to build off a successful 2022 season. The 22 year old, who was knocked prior to last year for his 0-8 lifetime record in ATP Tour finals, captured four titles in 2022 — including three in a row in October on indoor courts in Europe.

That remarkable run, which included a semifinal victory over the top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, catapulted Auger-Aliassime into the lucrative eight-man ATP Finals for the first time. Though he failed to get out of the group stage, a win over Rafael Nadal helped push the Canadian’s season earnings north of $4 million US and lift his ranking to a career-high sixth.

Then, in late November, Auger-Aliassime powered Canada to its first title in the 122-year history of the Davis Cup by winning all three of his singles matches without dropping a set in knockout-round victories over Germany, Italy and Australia.

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime beats fellow Canadian Pospisil at Australian Open:

Auger-Aliassime bests Pospisil in Australian Open all-Canadian clash

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied to defeat Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 in the first round of the Australian Open.

Andreescu begins strong

Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., who missed last year’s Australian Open, made a strong return to Melbourne Park on Sunday with a straight-set win over No. 25-ranked Marie Bouzkova of Czechia 6-2, 6-4.

Andreescu, who took one hour, 41 minutes to eliminate the 24-year-old player from Prague, had 23 service winners and only committed eight unforced errors, compared to Bouzkova’s 17.

Andreescu had two aces, two double faults and was good on 87 per cent of her first serves. She had 12 forehand winners and three on her backhand.

WATCH | Andreescu cruises into 2nd round of Australian Open:

Andreescu cruises to an easy 1st round win at Australian Open

Bianca Andreescu scored an easy 6-2, 6-4 straight sets win over No. 25-ranked Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., battled for more than two hours to defeat Dusan Lajovic of Belgrade, Serbia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the second round.

Shapovalov cruised through the first set, then struggled in the second set and half of the third before finding his groove and finishing off the resilient Lajovic.

Shapovalov had 38 service winners, 16 aces and seven double faults in the two-hour, 20-minute match. He had 23 winners on his forehand, 11 on his backhand had 30 unforced errors compared to Lajovic’s 22.

Meanwhiule, Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino, 32, lost to 28-year-old Zhu Lin of China in a battle of seasoned veterans by scores of 6-2, 6-4.

WATCH | Shapovalov dispatches Lajovic:

Shapovalov wins opening match at Australian Open

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., defeated Dusan Lajovic of Belgrade, Serbia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the second round.

Marino and American Madison Brengle will face the Swiss team of Belinda Bencic and Jill Teichmann.

Leylah Fernandez of Montreal was scheduled to open against Alize Cornet of France on Tuesday. Toronto’s Katherine Sebov was to make her Grand Slam singles debut against fourth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

Fernandez will team with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in women’s doubles play. They are scheduled to open against the seventh-seeded duo of Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia and China’s Shuai Zhang.

The third-seeded duo of Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos will open against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu and American Shelby Rogers.

Nadal moves on 

Rafael Nadal never truly seemed in danger of becoming the first Australian Open defending men’s champion to lose in the first round since his current coach, Carlos Moya, managed to beat Boris Becker a quarter of a century ago.

Still, this was not a vintage performance by Nadal, who came into hist matchup against 21-year-old Jack Draper with an 0-2 record in 2023 and six losses in his past seven outings overall. After nearly two hours of so-so play, Nadal found himself even at a set apiece.

He appeared to be pulling away, taking advantage of his opponent’s bout with cramps on an afternoon with the temperature at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius), when suddenly Draper went up by a break in the fourth set. From there, though, Nadal would not drop another game, beginning his pursuit of a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam championship with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win that took more than 3 ½ hours in Rod Laver Arena.

“I need a victory, so that’s the main thing,” Nadal said. “Doesn’t matter the way.”

The No. 1-seeded woman, Iga Swiatek, followed Nadal into Laver for the night session and found herself in a tight second set before reeling off the last four games to eliminate 69th-ranked Jule Niemeier 6-4, 7-5.

Gauff, Pegula, Raducanu also advance

Americans Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins reached the second round in contrasting fashion.

Third-seeded Pegula overwhelmed Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 6-0, 6-1 while seventh-seeded Gauff overcame a second-set wobble to beat Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4.

Collins, the runner-up last year to Ash Barty and seeded 13th, battled a left knee injury while defeating Anna Kalinskaya 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

Pegula and Gauff could meet in the semifinals while Collins could play No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round.

A quarterfinalist in Melbourne in each of the past two years, Pegula needed just 59 minutes to get past the 161st-ranked Cristian, who was appearing in her third Grand Slam event.

“Today is just one of those days everything was working,” said the American, who will play either Czech qualifier Brenda Fruhvirtova or Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round.

“Always feels good when you win a match like that. I think when those days come you just kind of take it and don’t complain and don’t critique. You kind of just move on to the next one.”

Gauff, who reached her first Grand Slam singles final at the French Open last year, was given the honour of opening proceedings on Rod Laver Arena and dominated Siniakova in the first set.

The Czech player led 4-2 in the second set but Gauff rallied and clinched victory on her seventh match point.

“I was not expecting to open the tournament on Rod Laver,” Gauff said. “I’m super-honored that the tournament chose me and Katerina. I’m really pleased with myself. Katerina’s a fighter, I knew she was going to fight for every point. I just stayed strong mentally.”

Gauff will now play former U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu after the British player shrugged off a bothersome left ankle issue to beat Tamara Korpatsch of Germany 6-3, 6-2.

Collins required a medical timeout for a left knee issue early in the first set of her match with Kalinskaya but survived to win in just over three hours.

Another former U.S. Open champion, Bianca Andreescu, advanced to the second round but 28th-seeded Amanda Anisimova was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Marta Kostyuk.

Kyrgios withdraws with knee injury

Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of the Australian Open because of an injured knee, a day before he was scheduled to play his first-round match.

Kyrgios was the runner-up at Wimbledon last year in singles and the men’s doubles champion at the Australian Open and considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park this year.

Kyrgios announced his withdrawal on Monday, Day 1 of action at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

He spoke at a news conference at Melbourne Park, accompanied by his physical therapist.

Kyrgios was seeded 19th in Melbourne and was supposed to face Roman Safiullin in the first round on Tuesday.

“I’m just exhausted from everything. Obviously pretty brutal,” Kyrgios said of the decision to sit out. “One of the most important tournaments of my career. Hasn’t been easy at all.”

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