Top seeds, former champions march on in Melbourne

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 01:44 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams stuck to the Australian Open script with fairly routine victories on Tuesday, while men’s champion Stan Wawrinka and two-time winner Victoria Azarenka joined them in the second round. The tournament had been turned on its head on the first day with eight women’s seeds, notably fifth ranked Ana Ivanovic, crashing out in the first round. Tuesday’s matches went mostly as expected, however, with Djokovic barely troubled while Serena had some issues in the second set against players ranked more than 100 places below them. Bidding to become the second man to win five Australian Open titles and touted by pundits and fellow players as the player to beat, Djokovic put in just enough effort to beat Slovenian qualifier Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-2 6-4 in a shade under two hours. “For a first round performance it was pretty good,” said Djokovic, who has been dogged by a virus this month. “Still need to work on some things. I’m still developing my game so I’m glad to go through. It has been a rough two weeks health-wise but I’m getting there.” Serena was at her ambivalently arrogant best in the first set, appearing to barely acknowledge Alison Van Utyvanck’s presence as she swatted aside the Belgian 6-0 in 21 minutes and then jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second. Such was her dominance a ‘double-bagel’ appeared on the cards before the 20-year-old found her rhythm and range and forced the 18-times grand slam winner into a match, which caused some frustrations for the American before she ran out a 6-0 6-4 winner. “As always, I had the jitters going out in the first match of a grand slam,” she said. “It’s never super easy to be the one that everyone wants to beat. So I always have to be a little bit above. But I felt okay (and) I definitely think I can improve a tremendous amount.” Top-10 win Despite taking a fall early in his match, Wawrinka was equally comfortable against Marsel Ilhan, the only Turkish man to have made a grand slam main draw. “First grand slam is never easy, but I’m happy the way I played,” the Swiss told reporters. “I play some good tennis and I have confidence with my game in general.” Kei Nishikori also had few problems, enjoying a 6-4 7-6 6-2 victory over former top-10 player Nicolas Almagro, who is on the comeback trail after foot surgery last June. Eighth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic also advanced, 7-6(3) 7-6(3) 6-3 over qualifier Illya Marchenko, though he admitted his laconic demeanour on court hides a tangled mess of high strung nerves and personal demons. “Everything bothers me deep down,” a smiling Raonic said after his 28th ace sealed the win over the 144th-ranked Ukrainian. “Everything. I’m not that relaxed.” Dark horse Twice champion Victoria Azarenka, unseeded after an injury-ravaged 2014, proved she was a dangerous floater in the draw as she got back to her banshee-screeching best, raising the decibel levels on Hisense Arena in a 6-3 6-2 win over American Sloane Stephens. “Being an unseeded player, it’s not a surprise that I have a tough draw or tough opponents in the early round,” she said. “I just need to go through that.” The tournament does not get any easier for Azarenka with a second round clash against former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who eventually outfought American teenager Taylor Townsend 7-6(1) 6-2. “It’s going to be tough, she’s won here before (and) not the easiest on paper,” Wozniacki said of the second round clash. “But at the same time... whether you have to beat her in the second round or fourth round, whatever, doesn’t matter if you want to win the tournament.”