July 24th, 2024

No. 1 Swiatek beats past champion Kenin, next faces 2022 finalist Collins at the Australian Open

By Simon Cambers, The Associated Press on January 15, 2024.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Top-ranked Iga Swiatek survived an early test of her Australian Open title hopes when she beat former champion Sofia Kenin 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the first round on Tuesday.

Kenin, the winner in 2020, served for the first set at 5-4 but could not close it out and Swiatek took it in the tiebreaker. The No. 1 seed then broke Kenin in the fifth game of the second set and held on to clinch victory.

“Really happy,” said Swiatek, who hit 30 winners. “It wasn’t easy to find my rhythm. I felt a little bit off and Sofia did everything to keep it that way, huge respect to her. I managed to get my level up in the second set.”

The Polish player is trying to win her fifth Grand Slam title but her first in Melbourne.

She’ll face another tough second-round match against 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins, who beat 2016 champion Angelique Kerber 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Kerber was one of three past Australian champions making their returns to Melbourne Park for the first time as moms. She joined four-time major winner Naomi Osaka as a first-round exit. Caroline Wozniacki, the 2018 winner, has reached the second round.

Earlier, Sloane Stephens picked up her first win at the Australian Open since 2019 when she beat wild-card entry Olivia Gadecki 6-3, 6-1. The 30-year-old American, who won the U.S. Open in 2017, won five straight games from 2-0 down in the opening set and eased through the second to clinch victory in just under an hour.

“Pleased with the way I played,” said Stephens, who reached the semifinals of the event in 2013 but who has lost in the first round in seven of her past eight visits to Melbourne. “I’ve been working a lot on making the opponents play. I think that’s something I had got away from. Pleased with the win.”

Daria Kasatkina, who is seeded 14th and next plays Stephens, beat Peyton Stearns 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

In men’s results, 11th-seeded Casper Ruud beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 and Cameron Norrie defeated Juan Pablo Varillas 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Men’s second-ranked Carlos Alcaraz began his title bid later Tuesday. Alcaraz, last year’s Wimbledon winner, played Richard Gasquet in the last match of the night session on Rod Laver Arena.


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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