Tennis

Aussie Open: Roger Federer launches Melbourne campaign with sublime win

Defending champion Naomi Osaka has won the opening match in Rod Laver Arena, reeling off the last four games after dropping serve for the only time to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.

Serena Williams, defending champ Naomi Osaka cruise in straight sets

Switzerland's Roger Federer advanced to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson on Monday in Melbourne. (Dave Hunt/EPA-EFE)

Roger Federer took another step toward a 21st Grand Slam singles title with a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Steve Johnson at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer, playing his first tournament of the season, wasn't troubled in his match with the American as he seeks his seventh Australian title. He won his first in Melbourne in 2004.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova is also through to the second round after beating Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-0.

Kvitova lost the final here last year to Naomi Osaka. Afternoon rain suspended play on outside courts but matches continued on the three stadiums with roofs.

Djokovic pushed hard

Novak Djokovic began his bid for an eighth Australian Open title with a 7-6 (5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 win over Jan-Lennard Struff in the last of the matches to finish on a rain-interrupted first day of the tournament.

The defending champion had to deal with a leaky roof as drops of water slowly dripped onto the court behind the baseline at one end and had to be regularly wiped away by ball kids. It was only a minor distraction, though, as he registered his 900th tour-level match win

Wozniacki advances

Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki beat Kristie Ahn 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of the Australian Open, the last tournament of her professional career.

Wozniacki has announced she will retire after the Australian Open, where she won her first major title in 2018. There were several rain delays in the mid-afternoon, prompting organizers to close the roof on each of the three man show courts. Play was suspended on outside courts when heavy rain fell shortly after the first delay.

Rain is on the forecast for the first two days of the Australian Open.

Serena cruises 

Serena Williams won the first set in 19 minutes and had a momentary lapse at the start of the second but completed a 6-0, 6-3 win over Anastasia Potapova. The eighth-seeded Williams is attempting to win her record 24th Grand Slam singles title. Williams had her service broken in the second game of the second set after cruising through the first. But she broke Potapova's serve two games later, her fifth successful break in six attempts.

Williams won last week's Auckland tournament.

"I hadn't been able to win as a mom, so it was nice to finally be able to win a tournament with a two-year-old now," Williams said. "I've been pretty close but it was special for me and for her. I hope for her."

Osaka ready to defend crown

Defending champion Naomi Osaka has won the opening match in Rod Laver Arena, reeling off the last four games after dropping serve for the only time to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.

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 a year after winning her first major title in New York, but says she learned some valuable lessons there. "Definitely, it was really tough for me trying to control my nerves. I'm really glad I was able to finish it in two," Osaka said.

She was given the first match on the main court at Melbourne Park on a day when former champions Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will also feature on Rod Laver.

"Thanks everyone. You probably didn't come for me, but thanks for filling up the stadium," she said.

Osaka hit 29 winners and 28 unforced errors, pushing No. 59-ranked Bouzkova around with some heavy ground strokes.

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.

Gauff beats Venus... again 

Everyone had the same question when the Australian Open draw was revealed: What were the odds that Coco Gauff and Venus Williams would face each other again in the first round at a Grand Slam tournament?

"I was a bit shocked," Gauff said, "I'm sure everyone was a bit shocked."

Gauff, 15, played Williams, 39, to begin her first appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park, just like they matched up to start things off at Wimbledon about six months ago. And, just like at the All England Club, the youngest woman in the field got the better of the oldest woman in the field, with Gauff beating Williams 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Monday.

"I definitely was more confident this time. I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd — I guess the size of the crowd didn't startle me as much as last time," Gauff said. "Definitely a bit more positive coming into this match."

It was the most anticipated contest of Day 1 at the first major tennis tournament of the decade, and it did not disappoint. The first set, in particular, was intriguing, with Gauff repeatedly pulling ahead, only to have Williams — who already had won four of her seven Grand Slam singles trophies by the time her foe was born — rebuff her.

It wasn't until her fourth set point that Gauff finally pulled it out. She quickly grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second and never let that edge go.

Gauff already has demonstrated all sorts of terrific qualities on a tennis court, from her big, gutsy serves to an ability to track down opponents' shots. Now you can add stick-to-it-iveness to the list.

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