AO finalists Halep, Thiem, Kvitova begin bids; Shapo survives in five

AO finalists Halep, Thiem, Kvitova begin bids; Shapo survives in five

Simona Halep, Dominic Thiem and Petra Kvitova all secured straight-set victories on Monday at the Australian Open. Australians Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic also began their campaigns in Melbourne.

A look at some of the results around Melbourne Park on Day 1 of the 2021 Australian Open.

Former finalists off and running

Simona Halep: The world No. 2's back looked A-OK in her opener on Rod Laver Arena, as she required just 59 minutes to dispatch wild card Lizette Cabrera, 6-2, 6-1. The 2018 runner-up, who downplayed injury concerns following a lackluster loss to Ekaterina Alexandrova last week, consistently applied pressure by winning 62 percent of her return points to break six times. The Romanian advanced to the final four here in 2020, before seeing her bid ended by Garbine Muguruza.

"Very nice atmosphere. Good vibe," Halep said. "I was really happy to be back on court with some people in the crowd and really happy that I could win the match."

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Dominic Thiem: The Austrian was one point away from losing his opening set, but fought it off in the 12th game to break back. After winning the ensuing first-set tie-break over Mikhail Kukushkin, last year's finalist found his footing to advance, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-3. Thiem, who hit 10 winners to 17 unforced errors in the opening set, finished his day on the plus side with a 29 to 27 ratio.

"Just needed some time to adjust," he admitted in press. "Also, it was interesting because I never faced him, which is not happening that often anymore, as I've almost faced everybody on tour already. He played well. The first set was very, very close." 

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Petra Kvitova: The No 9 seed shook off 10 double faults by excelling in other parts of her game to defeat qualifier Greet Minnen, 6-3, 6-4, after winning the final five games of the match. Kvitova was successful in 11 of her 12 trips to the net and managed to connect for six return winners in beginning her quest for a third major title. The Czech was down 1-4 in the second set, and  Two years ago, Kvitova narrowly missed out on capturing the trophy, falling to Naomi Osaka in a three-set thriller.

"I think I was more nervous, I was more pumped as well before the match," the left-hander said. "Yeah, it definitely feels different, and today we had more fans than for the tournament, as well. That was nice."

Kyrgios leads home charge

He was down a break in the early goings of his opener, and yelled at one stage, "tell your girlfriend to get out of my box." Not long after that outburst, Nick Kyrgios was back on serve and in command. The 25-year-old powered past Frederico Ferreira Silva, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, by racking up 40 winners, 14 via the ace. Kyrgios will face rising Frenchman Ugo Humbert, the No. 29 seed, for a spot in the third round.

"Got broken my first game of the tournament, which is never a good sign. And then actually bounced back pretty well," he reflected. "He's a tricky player, though. Crafty lefty, has a pretty good forehand. I didn't think he missed much, either. The conditions were incredibly tough. It was freezing in there. The court was playing very slow."

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Bernard Tomic, who had to come through the qualifying stage in Doha, also advanced, though not the way he expected to. After losing the first set, Tomic reeled off 10 of 12 games before Yuichi Sugita decided he could no longer play on. Tomic awaits No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov.

"It's gonna be unbelievable match. I think it's going to go long, so we'll see. Hopefully it goes long for my sake," Tomic said after previewing Shapovalov's match with Jannik SInner. "Second and third was some of the best tennis I have played in a while.

Ajla Tomljanovic cruised past Misaki Doi, 6-1, 6-2, and gets Halep next. Wild card Alex Bolt and 29-year-old James Duckworth, were also victorious.

Shapo survives in five

Tomic hoped Shapovalov and Sinner would go deep. His wish was granted.

It was billed as a first-round blockbuster and boy did it deliver. Shapovalov held off the 19-year-old, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, in three hours and 55 minutes. Sinner, who played four matches over a three-day stretch coming into Monday, showed tremendous heart in defeat. He was down a break in the fourth, but dug in and forced the Canadian to raise his level. Shapovalov held his nerve in the final game, overcoming a double fault that gave the Italian a break point choice to end the hard-fought clash.

"I'm just really happy to get the win. He's so talented, so great, such a great guy," Shapovalov said on-court. "Matches like this are so much fun for me to play. This is why I play the sport."