Grand Slam tennis is tough enough as it is, but throw in furnace-like conditions and you’re in for one hellish day at the office.
Six retirements punctuated an otherwise intriguing day’s play on Tuesday. John Isner (ankle), Polona Hercog (shoulder), Radek Stepanek (neck), Bernard Tomic (leg), Robin Haase (back) and Julian Reister were all forced onto the sidelines.
It was mostly all good for the former champions and finalists in the men’s and women’s draws – the exception being Lleyton Hewitt. Staring down a two-sets-to-love deficit as only tennis’s most revered terrier can, he came within one point of pulling off what would have been a miraculous win over 24th seed Andreas Seppi.
Countryman Marinko Matosevic, who lost a heartbreaking five-set match to Kei Nishikori, was also in a fighting mood. Unfortunately Matosevic – whose Australian Open record plummeted to 0-12 after today’s first-round loss – wanted to do his fighting in the press room. The crowd, umpire and his coach Mark Woodforde were all in the firing line, the latter later describing Matosevic’s outburst as “amateurish and unprofessional”.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the host country with a trio of young Australians carrying on the Hewitt legacy. Olivia Rogowska, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis all pulled off impressive first-round wins.
Kyrgios served up 34 aces, while Kokkinakis fought off cramp late in his match to win in four sets over Igor Sijsling. Kokkinakis celebrated by doing a lap of Show Court 3 and high-fiving nearly everybody in the crowd.
The 17-year-old’s reward is a second-round match with world No.1 Rafael Nadal, who won the first set in his match against Tomic before the Australian retired with an injured quadricep.
Thankfully the tournament’s biggest drawcards and most seeds escaped the day unscathed. Four-time champion Roger Federer was all business as he treated Australian James Duckworth to a typically professional three-set win.
After a slightly slow start, defending women’s singles champion Victoria Azarenka moved through to the second round. In her enlightening post-match press conference we learned more about her boyfriend Redfoo’s form on court than the world No.2’s.
Other seeds who survived Tuesday’s blowtorch included Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray, Simona Halep, Jelena Jankovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic and Sloane Stephens.
What did you say?
“When I kind of high-fived my mates, everyone else had their hand out, so I went around with it.”
- Thanasi Kokkinakis
It’ll be a long drive home for …
Marinko Matosevic. Especially if he’s sharing a car with Mark Woodforde.