Day 1 Headlines
— Everyone braces for women’s seeds to fall early at majors, but even this was a bit fast. Of the 16 seeds playing on Day 1, seven lost their opening match. Those who were eliminated: Caroline Wozniacki (16th seed), Sara Errani (17), Andrea Petkovic (22), Sloane Stephens (24), Sam Stosur (25), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (26) and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (27).
— With that said, the top women all advanced safely. Though Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova showed some rust in straight-set wins, they appear healthy enough after injuries to start the season. Petra Kvitova and Aga Radwanska cruised, while Belinda Bencic showed off an improved serve in a win over Alison Riske. If that proves more than a one-match blip, watch out.
— The top men all advanced, many in straight sets. Prospect Hyeon Chung put up a great fight against Novak Djokovic despite the scoreline. Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios all won comfortably. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon and David Goffin didn’t have it quite that easy, but prevailed in four sets. The only seeded men to fall were Ivo Karlovic, who retired and later tweeted his knee pain was too severe to continue, and…
— Frustrating Frenchman Benoit Paire, who was knocked out by American prospect Noah Rubin. It was not only Rubin’s first Grand Slam victory, it was his first ATP Tour-level victory. After the match, Paire would go on to say Rubin isn’t even a good player, but surely Rubin doesn’t care, since it was he who prevailed in straight sets, all tiebreakers.
Day 2 Marquee Matches
Rafael Nadal (5) vs Fernando Verdasco
The women were the headliners yesterday, and today, the men have the top matchups. This became the flashiest first rounder due to the absolutely epic 2009 semifinal these two Spaniards played back in 2009. Verdasco shocked Nadal in Miami last year, a match where Verdasco did not have the chance to get tight at the end because Rafa’s shot quality was so stunningly poor. Though Nadal had worse losses in 2015, none was more stunning than that one. He’s bounced back since then though, and it would be a real surprise if this turned into a true upset bid.
Prediction: Nadal in straight sets, with one tiebreaker
Andy Murray (2) vs Alexander Zverev
Zverev, along with Chung and another name down the list here, is one of the true young guns in men’s tennis, part of the generation that looks set to quickly knock off the disappointing Nishikori-Dimitrov-Raonic-Goffin class. He’s got a bazooka of a backhand, but is still very rarely and not as advanced as someone like Chung. He’ll show flashes in this match, making it a worthwhile watch, as Murray steadily advances to the second round.
Prediction: Murray in straights
Angelique Kerber (7) vs Misaki Doi
Kerber had a great start to 2016, reaching the Brisbane final before losing to Victoria Azarenka. She won a host of midrange titles last year, but has faltered in Slams. Doi is a real shot-maker and should’ve upset Bencic at last year’s U.S. Open in a dramatic thriller on the outer courts. Regardless, she has the skills to take out Kerber if the German hits one of her rough patches, so this match could give us an idea if Kerber is truly ready to make a push for one of the sport’s most important trophies.
Prediction: Kerber in three
Jack Sock (25) vs Taylor Fritz
Tennis junkies are really looking forward to this one. Since turning pro, Fritz has skyrocketed up the rankings. At just 18 years old, he’ll be in the top 150 after the next update and has already shown the competitive chops under pressure that portend success once he gets to the top. Sock, meanwhile, stepped up his dedication in 2015, and scored a win over David Ferrer last week. Although he still has to round out his game, his serve-forehand combo is already dangerous and is enough to beat most lower ranked players.
Prediction: Sock in four sets
Lleyton Hewitt vs James Duckworth
While this match has no bearing on the overall tournament, it’s possibly the last of Lleyton Hewitt’s career. The former world No. 1 who has done so much for Australian tennis fittingly plays a fellow Aussie to kick off his final event. If Hewitt’s history is any indicator, this will be a bizarre, unnecessary five-setter.
Prediction: Hewitt in five sets
Other notable men in action: Stan Wawrinka, David Ferrer, John Isner, Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils
Other notable women in action: Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Madison Keys, Ana Ivanovic