Photo: Paul ZimmerVictoria Azarenka (BLR)
The first big shock of this year’s Australian Open came on day two as Italy’s Sara Errani, the world No. 7 and quarterfinalist in Melbourne last year, lost in the first round to Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 64 64.
It was a match riddled with unforced errors, 61 in total, and each player faced 10 break points, 14 of which were converted. Errani had her best year on the tour in 2012, reaching the final of Roland Garros as well as clinching four singles titles, putting her in the Top 10 in the rankings for the first time. Suarez Navarro finished 2012 with her third Top 50 year-end ranking.
There were no such problems for world No. 1 and defending champion Victoria Azarenka, who cruised through her first round match against Monica Niculescu (ROU) 61 64.
“I couldn't wait to get out there and play. It's been a long week preparation, so you always feel like a little bit overwhelmed before your first match,” said the defending champion, who received support from the Grand Slam Development Fund.
Serena Williams (USA), winner of the last two Grand Slams, survived an injury scare to progress through to the second round. In the fifth game of the opening set Williams badly twisted her right ankle when chasing down a wide forehand. However, she had her ankle wrapped and came back out with all guns blazing. Her opponent, Edina Gallovits-Hall (ROU), could not cope with the American’s power and Williams strolled through 60 60.
After the match, speaking about her injury, Williams said: "At that point I think I really started to focus. For me, when I was injured, I just thought, ‘Just relax. Have nothing to lose at that point, so I just started swinging freely.”
In the men’s draw, second seed Roger Federer (SUI) proved too strong for talented young Frenchman Benoit Paire. There has been much speculation regarding Federer’s form after he decided against playing in any of the warm-up tournaments, but the four-time Australian Open champion showed no sign that he was anything other than match-fit, rushing to the net at almost every opportunity and easing to a 62 64 61 victory.
Britain’s Andy Murray, bidding to become the first man to win his first two Grand Slams back-to-back, was impressive in his win over Robin Haase of the Netherlands. Murray won 63 61 63 in just 97 minutes to cruise into the second round. When asked if he felt relaxed coming into this tournament, Murray said “I didn't work hard in Miami in the off season to come in and just not be focused or too relaxed or anything like that. I didn't train over there for four weeks to come here and put in a really bad performance. I plan on playing well here.”
There was also a record set on day two as Kimiko Date-Krumm became the oldest woman in history to win a main draw match at the Australian Open, and she did it in style. Up against the No. 12 seed Nadia Petrova (RUS), the 42-year-old Japanese player produced a scintillating performance to win 62 60 in a little over an hour.
“Of course I'm very happy to win today, but I don't play for the record, even (if I) lose, I'm still enjoying,” she said.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Bernard Tomic (AUS), Caroline Wozniacki (DEN), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA), Petra Kvitova (CZE) and Juan Martin del Potro (ARG).