MELBOURNE (AFP): Former world number one Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and Daniil Medvedev underlined his status as the man to beat on day two of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
In the women’s draw, top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges, and former number one Simona Halep won despite struggling with her serve.
But there was defeat at the first hurdle for 19-year-old US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez — the 23rd seed going down 6-4, 6-2 to Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis, to the delight of the home crowd.
After Sunday’s deportation of men’s defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic, the first Grand Slam of the year is now in full swing and eager to move on from the visa saga.
That is proving easier said than done and Tennis Australia (TA), organisers of the so-called “Happy Slam”, said in a statement Tuesday that they “deeply regret the impact” it has had on the other players.
“As the Australian tennis family, we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone,” TA said, without mentioning world number one Djokovic by name.
COULDN’T ASK FOR MORE
If it has been a distraction for Murray, he did not show it.
The 34-year-old, there as a wildcard, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic — the Briton departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
But here he was, rolling back the years and rolling into round two.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray.
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favourite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
Nadal, who is chasing a men’s record 21st Slam title, set the tone on Monday with a straight-sets romp, but Medvedev was no less emphatic in dismissing Laaksonen.
“I like to play here, I like hardcourts and I want to do better than I did last year,” said Medvedev, who was runner-up to Djokovic in 2021.
Medvedev, who conquered Djokovic in the US Open final in September to win his maiden Grand Slam crown, has cut a confident figure and said in the build-up that he feared nobody.
Another of the “Next Gen” young talents challenging the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The fourth seed, who has been recovering from elbow surgery, plays Mikael Ymer of Sweden later Tuesday.
There was disappointment for Casper Ruud of Norway, the eighth seed, who pulled out with an ankle injury before playing a shot.