British tennis fans suffered a disappointing opening day of the first Grand Slam, The Australian Open, as five of the six Brits competing crashed out with only British no. 1 Andy Murray remaining.
Elena Baltacha lost 6-2 6-4 to Stephanie Foretz Gacon, Heather Watson 6-1 6-0 to Victoria Azarenka and Laura Robson 6-2 6-0 to Jelena Jankovic. While James Ward lost 6-4 6-3 6-4 to Blaz Kavcic, and Anne Keothavong retired as a result of illness against Mona Barthel, after losing the first set 6-0.
The first to exit was Heather Watson, who played the first ever match at the Rod Laver Arena in sweltering heat. Watson started brightly, but failed to take advantage of a break point in her first receiving game. However, world no. 3 Azarenka quickly asserted her dominance in a match she never looked like losing. In her current form Azarenka is a serious contender for the Slam.
The female British no. 1, Elena Baltacha, was the next to exit in a shock defeat against an opponent ranked 53 places lower. Baltacha went 4-0 down in the opening set and was unable to save it. She started second set strongly taking the set to 4-4, but was broken by Foretz Gacon on the seventh break point in a tight service game. Foretz Gacon then served out the match to make it through to the second round.
Laura Robson was comprehensively beaten by 13th seed Jankovich in an encounter, in which the young Brit looked out of her depth. Robson had a few chances to get back into the match at 3-2, but after they were lost Robson crumbled without winning another game.
James Ward was the final Brit to exit the Grand Slam, but for Ward, reaching the First Round was achievement enough; he battled through the qualifying rounds to reach his first Grand Slam. However, the 24 year old Londoner was no match for Kavcic who eased through to face Del Potro in the second round.
In other opening day results the Australian youngster Tomic beat Versdasco in five sets after coming back from two sets down, while Nadal and Federer both made it through to the second round in straight sets. In the women’s draw, no. 1 seed Wozniaki proceeded to the second round in straight sets and was joined in the second round by Chinese Tennis superstar Li Na, who also went through without dropping a set.
Last year’s finalist Djokovic and Andy Murray are both in action tomorrow. Murray, the fourth seed, is due to start his campaign tomorrow in his bid for a first Grand Slam title. The Scot faces American Ryan Harrison, who is ranked at 84th in the world. Djokovic, the world no.1, will face Italian Lorenzi in what should be a comfortable first round tie. The big name women in action tomorrow are Sharapova who faces Dulko, Serena Williams who faces Paszek and second seed Kvitova who faces Russian Vera Dushevina.
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