By David Packman
Seventh seed Garbine Muguruza got opening day at Melbourne Park off to a good start, beginning proceedings at Margaret Court Arena with a 7-5 6-4 win over Kiwi Marina Erakovic.
The powerful Spaniard didn’t have it all her own way with Erakovic taking an early advantage in the second set after Muguruza called for the trainer to treat an ongoing issue with her knee, but in the end the reigning Roland Garros champion righted the ship and sailed home to victory.
“It was weird match,” Muguruza said.
“I felt a little bit nervous at the beginning. I think she was playing great. It was good that I can turn it around in that second set.”
Chardy was joined shortly afterwards by Rio Olympics gold medallist Monica Puig, the No.29 seed dropped just a single game in dispatching Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig 6-0 6-1 in under an hour.
Tig’s compatriot, No.27 seed Irina-Camelia Begu, survived an early scare before defeating Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova 5-7 6-3 6-4.
China’s Ying-Ying Duan was also an early winner, taking care of Slovakian qualifier Rebecca Sramkova.
In an all-American battle out on Court 10, Samantha Crawford came back from one set down to upset compatriot Lauren Davis, a first-time WTA title winner in Auckland just a fortnight ago. Crawford, who sits nearly 120 rankings places below Davis at world No.162, dominated the final set to win 4-6 6-3 6-0.
American Alison Riske was also successful in winning against her countrywoman, Madison Brengle, who was responsible for the demise of Serena Williams in Auckland.
In fact, the American flag was waving dominantly before lunch on Monday with Varvara Lepchenko upstaging 19th-seeded Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 7-5 7-6(5) and Ryan Harrison saluting with a solid 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over wily Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.
The revival was complete when Coco Vandeweghe upset 15th seed Roberta Vinci in straight seeds 6-1 7-6(3) at Margaret Court Arena and qualifier Julia Boserup defeated Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone.
Two perennial crowd favourites were also winners on Monday with China’s Zhang Shaui and eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova continuing their love affairs with Melbourne Park and only dropping four games between them.
Other afternoon winners on the women’s side included Latvian No.32 seed Anastasija Sevastova, who advanced after Japan’s Nao Hibino was forced to withdraw, Romanian Sorana Cirstea, Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier, No.24 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 11th-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele and Czech Kristyna Pliskova, twin sister of No.5 seed Karolina who takes to the courts on Tuesday.
While we are on the topic of siblings, Mischa Zverev, elder brother of the fast-rising Alexander, was also successful, dismantling Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straight sets.
With the sun setting over Melbourne Park, women’s 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro booked her passage to round two with ease, pushing past Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova 6-2 6-2 in 72 minutes to set up a meeting with Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who had a straight-sets victory over Russia’s Irina Khromacheva.
Melbourne Park continued to be a graveyard for men’s 16th seed Lucas Pouille, the Frenchman losing in the first round for the fourth year in succession after Kazakhstan qualifier Alexander Bublik triumphed 6-0 3-6 6-3 6-4.
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England 6-Russia )