A total of 64 matches were played on the first day of the 2020 Australian Open qualifying. With Australian news outlets advising to stay inside and not to exercise, there were some doubts whether any tennis would even be played in Melbourne.
Three hours and 20 minutes until Australian Open qualifying is due to start… pic.twitter.com/MWUE0zr9EN
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) January 13, 2020
But at 11 am local time, one hour after the original starting time, the players set their feet on thirteen different courts to start one of the most intense couple of days in the entire tennis season. There’s no doubt that the conditions were all but unplayable, and sadly that rather overshadowed the tennis on day one at the Australian Open qualifying.
Awful scenes in Melbourne.
— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) January 14, 2020
That was particularly troubling with Grand Slam qualifying so important to so many players. It provides a rare chance for players ranked outside the top 100 to try and make an impact on the biggest stage, as well as offering a considerable pay cheque, particularly for those who do it make it into the main. But unfortunately, a number of players fell victim to breathing issues and cramps in the low-quality air. The organisers certainly didn’t make it easy on them today.
Pedja Krstin defeated Martin Klizan 6-3 6-2. Even with the Slovakian finishing his 2019 campaign on a seven-match losing streak and with a serious injury, Klizan was good enough in his first weekend back at Noumea Challenger to expect him to produce in Melbourne. But it was instead the 25-year-old Serbian, playing for the first time this season, who quickly shook off the rust and completed a rather routine victory.
Thomas Fabbiano, meanwhile, continues to disappoint. Although he finally broke his losing streak by beating Hugo Gaston in Noumea last week, the Italian is still lacking any confidence and was unable to make a mark against Australian Aleksandar Vukic. Fabbiano looked a shadow of the player who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem at Grand Slam level last year.
On the plus side
Shelby Rogers, who missed over a year of competitive tennis between Indian Wells 2018 and Charleston 2019, showed very positive signs in her 6-4 6-0 victory over Mona Barthel. The American’s comeback trail has been no bed of roses but the former world #48 seems to be back on the right track.
Paolo Lorenzi and Adrian Menendez-Maceiras made it a very enjoyable first-round clash with a lot of variety in their baseline exchanges. There are few with more experience than the pair. The Spaniard was attempting to advance through qualifying for the 42nd time, he has succeeded on only three occasions, whilst the 38-year-old Lorenzi was featuring in a Grand Slam qualifying for the 28th time. He has advanced to the main draw this way just once. But he took the match 6-3 6-3 to keep his hopes alive.
A first-round match between Lukas Lacko and Roberto Marcora seemed to be to close to call, especially with Lacko’s previous success at the Australian Open (third round appearances in 2012, 2017). But it was the Italian who struck his one-handed backhand beautifully and was able to dominate play in a stunning 6-3 6-2 win.
Federico Coria, who recently pulled off his first win outside clay in about three years, defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan 4-6 6-4 6-1, coming back from a 4-6 2-4 deficit. The Argentinian reeled off eight games in a row at one point to complete a victory rather unexpected on this surface.
Ernests Gulbis has been showing some signs of improvement. The Latvian ripped apart the serve-and-volleying American Maxime Cressy 6-3 6-3, dropping just eight points on serve. Gulbis had a couple of really great passes and was always on the front foot against a very tricky opponent.
Eugenie Bouchard fans will not be happy with her performance in the first round but at least the Canadian pulled through. Many considered her great week in Auckland, where she defeated Kirsten Flipkens and Caroline Garcia, as a very positive sign and maybe the beginning of her comeback to the top echelon of women’s tennis. But she’s clearly not there yet as Bouchard as she laboured to a 4-6 7-6 6-1 You Xiaodi.
Katarzyna Kawa, who reached the championship match at Jurmala last year as a qualifier and played one of the most exciting WTA games of the year against Anastasija Sevastova, still can’t find herself a place in tennis after that. Although it wasn’t really an upset, the size of her loss to Antonia Lottner might be quite shocking, with the German triumphing 6-2 6-1 in little over an hour.
In what seemed like one of the most exciting matches of the day, Liam Broady never came out of the blocks against Ilya Ivashka. The Belarusian dominated, especially in the 23-minute second set where he allowed Broady just six points in total.
Matthew Ebden, who came into the last Australian Open as a top 50 player, will not repeat his good performance from last year. Ebden hasn’t been having a great time on the court lately and will be almost out of the third hundred of the ATP Rankings. Although one has to give him credit for fighting, he came up short against Italy’s Gianluca Mager 5-7 4-6.
Four out of nine men went through to the second round – Max Purcell, Luke Saville, Aleksandar Vukic, Blake Mott.
There was one “derby” matchup on the women’s side between Olivia Tjandramulia and Belinda Woolcock, won by the 24-year-old Woolcock. Two more home crowd favorites reached the second round – Destanee Aiava and Maddison Inglis.
Match of the day
On the women’s side, it has to be Maddison Inglis over Rebecca Sramkova. Although it was far from perfect and the second set was rather awful from the Australian, the sole drama of the deciding third set tie-breaker makes it earn its place here. Since 8-7 for Sramkova both ladies suddenly started winning all their points on serve and the next 19 points were all won by the server. One mini-break at 17-17 gave Inglis her sixth match point and she never hesitated, taking the match 6-3 0-6 7-6(17).
As for the men, there could be many different picks but I’ll go with Juan Pablo Varillas against Tristan Schoolkate. The Peruvian was a breakthrough performer on the ATP Challenger Tour last year but hasn’t shown much premise outside of clay. He struggled a bit to find his rhythm against the 18-year-old Aussie but ended up pulling off a stunning comeback from 2-6 3-5 down. Both players were very engaged in a high-quality third set with Varillas eventually coming out on top 2-6 7-5 7-5.
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