Aus Open PICS: Former champion Azarenka stunned by Pegula

Images from the action on Day 2 at the Australian Open.

Victoria Azarenka was dumped out of the Australian Open in the first round on Tuesday after a 7-5, 6-4 defeat by main draw debutant Jessica Pegula.

Belarusian Azarenka, who won her two Grand Slam titles in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013, started the stronger and looked to be in complete control, the 12th seed racing to a 5-2 lead in the first set.

However, things quickly fell apart as American Pegula, the world number 61, took the next five games to seal the set.

Azarenka’s troubles continued in the second set and she took a medical timeout while trailing 4-2 after appearing to have trouble breathing.

She returned to hold serve and followed that up with a break to draw level at 4-4, but Pegula broke straight back before serving out the match, sealing victory with an ace.

Emotional Kenin grinds into second round

An anxious Sofia Kenin was in tears before launching her title defence at the Australian Open on Tuesday and again after completing an unconvincing 7-5, 6-4 win over local wildcard Maddison Inglis.

Fourth seed Kenin, who claimed her maiden Grand Slam at Melbourne Park last year in a major surprise, found the going tough against the world number 133 Australian on a glorious morning at Rod Laver Arena.

The Russia-born American was broken twice in the first set and slumped to an early 3-1 deficit before recovering. She later double-faulted on match-point before closing it out.

Kenin has always worn her heart on her sleeve and was candid about her emotions, saying she needed to get a grip of them if she hoped to go far in her title defence.

“Yeah, emotions, some tears and stuff. I felt a little bit (of) pressure,” the 22-year-old said of her lead-in to the match.

“Obviously I was nervous … I obviously am tight. I wasn’t there 100% mentally.”

Kenin said that while she gets nervous before all of her matches, the anxiety level was cranked up in Melbourne as she bids to defend her title.

“I have to try to put my emotions aside for a match,” she added.

“I have to somehow get better at that if I want to do well here.”

Even after thumping down a backhand drive-volley to seal the win on a third match point, Kenin said she had to stop herself from weeping on court.

“Eyes were a little bit wet during the match,” she said.

“I try to cool off, put that aside … As the match went, luckily it was fine. Towards the end, you could see I got a little bit emotional as well.

“Standing at the net, ‘Okay, don’t cry’. My eyes were wet, obviously.”

She will next play Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who beat her in three sets in Rome in 2018, their only career meeting.

Just seeing that Kanepi was winning her first round match against Anastasija Sevastova was enough to tug at Kenin’s emotions again.

“After my match, I came off court, and I looked that she was winning,” she said.

“Maybe (I) kind of broke down a little bit because obviously I remember I lost to her.” 

Djokovic serves up masterclass on favourite court

Novak Djokovic got back to doing what he does best on Monday when he steamrollered Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in his opening round match on Monday.

Having come through two weeks of quarantine in Adelaide, and a brief but damaging spat with his hosts about the strict isolation conditions placed on competitors in Melbourne, the world number one let his tennis do the talking as he eased to a 297th Grand Slam victory.

Djokovic has won eight of his 17 major titles on Melbourne Park’s main showcourt and, even with a smaller crowd than usual, the Serbian looked very much at home on the distinctive blue surface.

“There’s an ongoing love affair with me and this court,” he said to cheers from the fans.

“I’ve been lucky to have so much success on this court and hopefully it will continue for many years. It makes my heart full to see so many people in the stadium. This is the most people I’ve seen on a tennis court in 12 months. Thank you.”

Chardy had never taken a set off his opponent in 13 previous matches and with Djokovic landing three quarters of his first serves, the Frenchman was unable to muster a single break point.

With Djokovic finding the corners with his ranging strokes to rattle up 41 winners, Chardy’s small victories were the occasions when he battled back to hold his serve.

Djokovic brought a definitive end to the one-sided contest with back-to-back aces after 91 minutes and will next play American world number 64 Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

The Serbian said he felt he played a “flawless” match.

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