Williams, Osaka both decide to compete for their families
The Associated Press
MELBOURNE, Australia — Naomi Osaka won the tournament opening match for her dad at the Australian Open. Serena Williams won hers for her daughter.
The first two matches on center court at the Australian Open were all about families for two champions.
For something new, Osaka’s father, Leonard Francois, was in the crowd watching as the defending champion reeled off the last four games after dropping serve for the only time to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.
Next up, Williams started her bid for a first major title as a mom when she beat 18-year-old Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-3. Williams has won the title seven times in Australia, and is aiming for an all-time record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title. She hasn’t added to her career tally with victory at the 2017 Australian Open, and then becoming Olympia’s mom. She managed to end one drought last week when she won the title in Auckland, New Zealand — her first since the Australian title three years ago.
“I hadn’t been able to win as a mom, so it was nice to finally be able to win a tournament with a 2-year-old now,” Williams said of her Auckland win. “I’ve been pretty close, but it was special for me and for her. I hope for her.”
Williams has lost four Grand Slam finals since her last title, and is determined to end that streak.
She won seven straight games until Potapova held serve and changed the momentum — for a little while at least. The Russian got a service break, but broke Williams rallied quickly to get back on track.
Osaka thanked the crowd after her match, saying “You probably didn’t come for me, but thanks for filling up the stadium. There was one person in particular who was there only for Osaka.
“My dad watched my match from my box for the first time during a Grand Slam,” Osaka, who won back-to-back majors at the 2018 U.S. Open and last year’s Australian Open, tweeted. “I feel so happy.”
It was an all-star lineup on Rod Laver, with six-time champion Roger Federer and seven-time champion Novak Djokovic playing matches on either side of No. 1-ranked Ash Barty’s night match.
Osaka is aiming to be only the ninth woman to successfully defend the Australian Open title. She wasn’t able to do that at the U.S. Open last year, when she lost in the fourth round, but says she learned some valuable lessons there.
“Definitely, it was really tough for me trying to control my nerves,” she said of her first-round win. “I’m really glad I was able to finish it in two.
Other seeded players advancing included No. 13 Petra Martic and No. 14 Sofia Kenin. Martic had a 6-3, 6-0 win over Christina McHale and Kenin beat Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-4..
In men’s matches, Sam Querrey beat 25th-seeded Borna Coric 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and No. 8 Matteo Berrettini advanced 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 over wild-card entry Andrew Harris.
No. 13-seeded Denis Shapovalov is out after losing in four sets to Marton Fucsovics. The 20-year-old Canadian lost 6-3, 7-6 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (3). Shapovalov berated the umpire and received a code violation during his ill-tempered match on Margaret Court Arena. The blowup came after the third set.
After throwing his racket, Shapovalov was given the code violation that triggered his outburst.
“I didn’t break it. If I break it, 100% code me,” Shapovalov yelled at umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. “You’re not doing your job. You’re just finding reasons to code me.”
Fucsovics also beat the 13th seed last year at Melbourne Park, that time Sam Querrey in the second round.
“Usually this is not a lucky number, but for me, my favorite number,” he said. “I played some of my best tennis today. Everything was working well.”
Not long after Shapovalov’s exit, rain caused the suspension of matches around the grounds.
Radu Albot had to withdraw before his scheduled first-round match against No. 32-seeded Milos Raonic. He was replaced by lucky loser Lorenzo Giustino, an Italian who is ranked 150th. Albot, who finished 2019 ranked 46th, played for Moldova at the season-opening ATP Cup and lost his three singles matches to Daniel Evans.