AO Live Blog: Azarenka tumbles out; Barty, Nadal, Kenin win on Day 2

AO Live Blog: Azarenka tumbles out; Barty, Nadal, Kenin win on Day 2

A flurry of highly seeded players started Monday with opening round wins, while Victoria Azarenka was beaten by world No. 61 Jessica Pegula.

From first ball to last, keep up to date with the latest from the Australian Open every day on We'll have match updates, photos, video highlights and more in our daily notebook.

Tsitsipas, Berrettini star under the lights

Russia may have won the ATP Cup over the weekend, but Matteo Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas had their own reasons to be satisfied after their performances at the men's team event. Both carried through their early Melbourne form by coming through their respective openers late Tuesday. 

With one of the harshest opening rounds dealt, Berrettini met the challenge of Kevin Anderson to advance, 7-6 (9), 7-5, 6-3. Things could have gone much differently had Anderson managed to convert one of his eight set points in the first—but Berrettini fought them off at 4-5, 0-40, and 3-6, 6-7 and 8-9 in the tie-break. The No. 9 seed finished his day with a tremendous +30 differential (45 winners to 15 unforced errors).

Meanwhile, Tsitsipas strolled through to round two with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory against Gilles Simon. The 2019 semifinalist won 40 more points in the blowout win. allowing the Frenchman to nail down just six winners while collecting 25 of his own. Tsitsipas gets wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis next in a first-time meeting. —Matt Fitzgerald

Nadal on staying up for Shapo-Sinner showdown

Following his opening-round win, world No. 2 Rafael Nadal shared he was among the many glued to their screens as Denis Shapovalov edged Jannik Sinner in five sets to close out Monday's action. Sinner had practiced with Nadal during the pair's two-week quarantine in Adelaide.

"I stayed on the bed watching the match until 1:00 a.m. Yeah, it's true. I had been watching," Nadal said. "A great match, great level of tennis for both of them, emotional, sad for Jannik. Yeah, happy for Denis. That's it. That's the game. An unlucky first round, I think, for both of them.

"Jannik is a great guy. I was able to know him a little bit more during that 15 days in Adelaide, and I think we had great practices, great atmosphere out there practicing together, not having a lot of fun because we were not able to have fun, but I think both of us, we enjoyed practicing together, and I think we did a good work."

Getty Images

Thanasi's wait is over

In 2015, Thanasi Kokkinakis outlasted No. 11 seed Ernests Gulbis, 8-6, in the fifth to win a four-hour plus marathon, memorably doing a victory lap around Show Court 3 to high-five appreciative fans.

The exuberant Aussie's career has since been marred by a string of injuries, forcing him to miss three of the past five Australian Opens. Having lost to countryman Alex Bolt last week, Kokkinakis came out on a mission tonight to blitz Soon-woo Kwon, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1—appropriately on Court 3 no less—for his first win at Melbourne Park in six years.

"At 5-Love I felt this massive roar and massive cheer from the crowd. I started tearing up, it was a bit of a soft moment," he reflected. "It was just so much stuff behind the scenes to get back to that point. Not a lot of people realize apart from my team and friends and family. Yeah, definitely got a bit emotional."

The success also marked the 24-year-old's first tour-level victory since the 2019 US Open. —Matt Fitzgerald

Getty Images

Barty Party appetizer: double bagel

Several contenders have delivered clinical opening statements over the first two days at Melbourne Park. But it's hard to top Ashleigh Barty's performance.

Fresh off a triumphant return to the tour with Sunday's Yarra River Classic title, Barty produced a different kind of magic by overwhelming Danka Kovinic, 6-0, 6-0, to begin her AO bid. Barty won 50 of the 60 points played, winning a tremendous 73 percent of points on return. Last year, the world No. 1 went down to Sofia Kenin in the semifinals and the two are projected to meet at that stage again this time around. 

Sam Stosur emerged victorious in a meeting between wild cards, defeating Destanee Aiava, 6-4, 6-4. The 2011 US Open champion ended a five-match losing streak at her home Slam and will look to reach the third round for the first time in seven years when she squares off against Jessica Pegula, who upset two-time winner Victoria Azarenka earlier in the day. —Matt Fitzgerald

Getty Images

Sherif's historic win

At last year's French Open, Mayar Sherif qualified without dropping a set and forced No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova to rally for a three-set win in her Grand Slam main draw debut. So it was only a matter of time before the former Pepperdine standout secured a breakthrough win for her country.

Taking on Chloe Paquet in a matchup of qualifiers, that moment happened Tuesday for Sherif, who became the first Egyptian woman to win a major main draw match by virtue of her 7-5, 7-5 victory over the Frenchwoman. Sherif did not drop serve, closing out her historic effort in style with an ace.

"Obviously it means a lot because finally this is barrier that I had to pass, a mental barrier. With the conditions that are here it was very, very tough to adapt to it, especially to adapt my game to it," Sherif said. "It took us awhile. Courts are faster, the heat, everything happens so fast, very tough to control the ball. Very, very happy with my accomplishment and I'm going for more. That's it."

The 24-year-old will look to extend her run against No. 13 seed Johanna Konta or Slovenian Kaja Juvan. —Matt Fitzgerald

Getty Images

Rafa "back" in business

Talk about coming in hot. Rafael Nadal barely broke any sweat in his opener with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Laslo Dere. The 2009 champion—who did not compete in the ATP Cup last week due to a stiff lower back—did not show any signs of rust, given this was his first tour match of the season.

"It's been a tough 15 days for me, because I had some issued with the back. I needed to survive today, and that's what I did," Nadal said in his in-court interview after the match. "I just tried to be focused all the time, tried to get through."

The Spaniard, who fell in the quarterfinals to eventual finalist Dominic Thiem last year, awaits the winner of the Viktor Troicki-Michael Mmoh match. Nadal leads Troicki 5-1 in their head-to-head series, and 0-0 against Mmoh. —Ashley Ndebele

Getty Images

No. 12 and 13 men's seeds crash out

Wild card Alexei Popyrin saved four match points to stun No. 13 seed David Goffin, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-3, on Court 3. In the fourth set, Goffin served up 5-4, 40-15, but hit two double faults over three points to ultimately get broken. He had two more chances with a 6-4 lead in the eventual tie-break, before Popyrin dug in again. Goffin also let a break lead slip in the decider, losing six of the final seven games.

A few minutes later, Moldova's Radu Albot knocked out No. 12 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-7 (1), 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (5), in three hours and 15 minutes. For Albot, the victory marked his second over a Top 15 opponent at a major (d. No. 12-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta at 2018 Wimbledon). —Matt Fitzgerald

15-Love for Medvedev

Coming into the Happy Slam, Daniil Medvedev brought a 14-match win streak to the table. His first-round match against Vasek Pospisil was billed as one to watch given the past's prior history of close contests. It was a good one to follow—for fans of the reigning ATP Finals champion. 

Pospisil, the ATP's 2020 Comeback Player of the Year, was one of 72 competitors who faced a hard quarantine after arriving in Melbourne. The Canadian favored training over playing a warm-up event, a decision that didn't help his cause in the end.

Medvedev broke to open the encounter and sprinted forward from there. Having teamed up with Andrey Rublev to lead Russia to the ATP Cup last week, the 24-year-old maintained his form to break Pospisil five times in advancing, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, after one hour and 47 minutes. —Matt Fitzgerald

Getty Images

Mladenovic Marvels in Sakkari Upset

Former world No. 10 Kristina Mladenovic scored an impressive upset over an in-form No. 20 seed Maria Sakkari, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 on Court 15.

Getty Images

Sakkari had enjoyed a glowing start to 2021, reaching semifinals in Abu Dhabi and Melbourne—with a 14-day quarantine preceding the latter—and had shown off her supreme fitness by debuting a web series entitled “Sparring with a Spartan.” Mladenovic, who won the women's doubles title with Timea Babos for the second time last year, opted to focus on singles this fortnight—a decision that has already paid off for the former French and US Open quarterfinalist.

After losing to Sakkari in three sets 18 months ago in Rome, the Frenchwoman turned around a second set bagel to serve out the Greek star on her third match point.

With No. 12 seed Azarenka going out to Pegula, opportunities abound for Mladenovic and those remaining in that section to reach the second week Down Under. —David Kane 

Svitolina, Gauff Too Good to Crack

After cruising in the first set, things got a little tricky for Elina Svitolina, but she finished strong to eliminate an inspired Marie Bouzkova, 6-3, 7-6 (5). The 26-year-old Ukrainian, who just lost to Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals of the Gippsland Trophy on Friday, faced a tough test as Bouzkova started to find her range.

A 12-minute game in the second set made all the difference when Svitolina erased two break points. In her next service game, she fought off a set point with a rare drop shot. Bouzkova continued to push the 15-time titlist to the limit, but it was the more experienced Svitolina who prevailed.

A few minute later, Coco Gauff wrapped up a clean 6-3, 6-2 win over Jil Teichmann in John Cain Arena. The 16-year-old needed just 56 minutes to advance. It was a very different story to her match against the same Swiss just last week when she needed a third-set tiebreak to win. —Ashley Ndebele

Azarenka Can't Catch a Break, or Breath 

After 14 days of a hard lockdown, Victoria Azarenka was dumped out of the first round by world No. 61 Jessica Pegula. Azarenka held a 5-2 lead in the first set, only to lose five games in a row to drop the set. 

Down 4-2 in the second set came some scary moments when the No. 12-seeded Belarusian appeared to be struggling to breath. She used an inhaler on the previous changeover, and called for a medical timeout mid-game. Despite the drama, she’d hold for 3-4 and win the next game to even the set, but then sprayed unforced errors and her seventh double fault to go down 4-5. Pegula stepped up to the challenge to clinch the upset with an ace, 7-5, 6-4. It marks her first career Australian Open win. 

Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, came into the match with just over a week of preparation outside of her hotel room, and one match under her belt. Pegula has been poised for a Grand Slam breakthrough: The 26-year-old cracked the Top 100 in 2019, won her first title that summer in Washington, and reached the third round of the 2020 US Open.

She trained hard during the tour shutdown and quarantine, and it’s been paying off. In her recent episode of the Podcast, the American talked a lot about believing in herself and the importance of having the confidence to beat anyone on tour. —Nina Pantic

Heartbreak for Badosa, Bencic Survives

Unseeded Spaniard Paula Badosa made it through a positive COVID-19 test and did all she could to make up for the time lost in 21 days of quarantine. Taking on Russian qualifier Liudmilla Samsonova, she led by a set and a break, by 3-1 in the second set tie-break, and by 5-3 in the decider, only to bow out, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-5 after two hours and 38 minutes on Court 12. For Samsonova, Tuesday’s win over Badosa marked her first Grand Slam main draw win, and she will next face former world No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza.

Click here to read more about Badosa’s quarantine odyssey

No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic regrouped after a second set hiccup to dispatch tricky American Lauren Davis, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Bencic was ranked No. 4 this time, last year, and is eager to reclaim her spot among the world’s Top 10, but will likely face another tough opponent next: former WTA doubles No. 1 Barbora Strycova or two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. —David Kane 

Coric Cruises 

Borna Coric becomes the first men’s seed to advance on Tuesday when the No. 22 seed edged past Argentine Guido Pella, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 7-5 to reach the second round. American Mackenzie McDonald awaits.

Coric reached the second week of the Australian Open back in 2019. McDonald, playing in Melbourne with a protected ranking, defeated former Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato in four sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Getty Images

Aussie wildcard Christopher O’Connell pulled off the biggest men's surprise thus far when he stunned German Jan-Lennard Struff, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-1. The 26-year-old won his first Grand Slam main draw match at the US Open last summer, and could play No. 12 seed Roberta Bautista Agut next. —David Kane

Kenin Manages Nerves

In her first act as a defending Grand Slam champion, Sofia Kenin got off to a wobbly start. She struggled to set the tone in the first set against an inexperienced opponent, Australian wild card Maddison Inglis. Ranked No. 133, Inglis was seeking her first-ever Grand Slam win.

Inglis showed no signs of nerves inside Rod Laver Arena and had Kenin scrambling to stay on top of the match. At 4-4, Kenin turned her ankle on a return and Inglis inched ahead, 5-4. True to her fighting nature, Kenin dug in and battled back to snag the opener, 7-5.

Life got just a little bit easier as Kenin raced to an early 3-1 lead and stayed in front throughout the second set. Yet when she went to serve for it at 5-4, she squandered multiple match points, including one with a double fault.

"Shortest memory in the business," said Tennis Channel's Brett Haber, as Kenin it all shrugged off. Despite not playing her best tennis, Kenin simply played the big points better for a 7-5, 6-4 win. —Nina Pantic

Kenin chats first-round win:

Garbine Muguruthless in Melbourne

The first winner of the day was 20-year-old American Ann Li ousting No. 31-seeded Shuai Zhang, 6-2, 6-0 in just 47 minutes. Li continued her fantastic start to 2021, backing up her co-champion result at the Grampians Trophy with a big win over the 2016 Australian Open quarterfinalist. Reaching the third round of the US Open last summer, the Pennsylvania native is already at a career-high ranking of No. 69, and will next play French veteran Alize Cornet.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza fell just short of winning the Yarra River Classic last week, but picked up where she left when she returned to Margaret Court Arena on Tuesday, dispatching Russian lucky loser Margarita Gasparyan, 6-4, 6-0.

Gasparyan reached the round of 16 Down Under back in 2016, but suffered from various injuries that derailed her career, and though she pushed the Spaniard throughout the opening set, the former world No. 1 was too strong in the end, sealing the win in 73 minutes.

Getty Images

Speaking of dominant, Elise Mertens has been on fire since action resumed following the WTA Tour’s COVID-19 shutdown—reaching the quarterfinals or better at all but one of the eight events played. Starting the season with a title at the Gippsland Trophy, the 2018 Australian Open semifinalist appears poised for another deep run at a major tournament after blitzing rising Canadian star Leylah Fernandez, 6-1, 6-3. The teenaged Fernandez enjoyed a major breakthrough of her own last fall at Roland Garros, reaching the third round, but had no answers for the Belgian’s firepower and bowed out in 86 minutes on Court 15. —David Kane