Thursday 17 August 2017 / 05:42 AM

BIG NAMES FORCED TO WORK ON DAY 1

New world no.1s Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray were both made to work hard on an action-packed opening day of the year’s first major.

Murray toiled in the searing Melbourne heat for two sets before dogged Ukrainian opponent, Ilya Marchenko, ran out of gas in the third set. In an underwhelming performance, the Scot prevailed 7-6 7-5 6-2 over the 95th-ranked Marchenko and was lucky not to have been dragged through a much longer match.

Murray felt his movement wasn’t up to its usual level and that the conditions might have affected him.

“The ball’s flying through the air a little bit quicker, so the ball is coming onto you faster than what it was in the last few days,” Murray said.

“Maybe wasn’t reacting as quickly as I would have liked.”

Kerber, like Murray, also had to battle past a Ukrainian opponent. In her case, it took three sets to escape past ranked Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 5-7 6-2. Kerber had the opportunity to serve out a routine straight-sets win, but Tsurenko’s backhand was causing the German all kinds of trouble and all of a sudden it turned into a three-set scrap.

Kerber produced a clutch forehand winner at break point down early in the third set and eventually overcame her stubborn opponent. Although it was a rusty performance, she can draw on last year’s first round for inspiration. On that occasion, she saved match point against Misaki Doi before going on to win the title.

The first significant upset of the tournament saw fourth seed Simona Halep knocked out in the first round for the second year running. The Romanian was beaten 6-3 6-1 by world No.52 American Shelby Rogers, but told reporters afterwards she was hindered by knee tendonitis.

Big names dodging bullets seemed to be the theme of the day as Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic all escaped in five sets. But there were easier wins for five-time Wimbledon champ Venus Williams and French Open champ Garbine Muguruza.

The legendary 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer made a successful return after a six-month injury layoff. The Swiss closed out play on Rod Laver Arena with a 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2 win over fellow 35-year-old Jurgen Melzer of Austria.

For the locals, there were wins for Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Ashleigh Barty and 17-year-old Alex Di Minaur, who had to battle cramp through his five-setter.


[YouTube – Australian Open TV]

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Farhan Shah

A recent addition to the roster, Melburnian Farhan is a sports nut who has come on board to provide golf, tennis, AFL and rugby league coverage for CBS.

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