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Australian Open diary: Monday 17 January


 

Originally published on: 17/01/11 10:52

Howzat for an opener?
Day one’s are meant to be dull aren’t they? Y’know, the opening night of the show when the curtain gets stuck and everyone forgets their lines. The first day of the Ashes when the team in white (yep, I’m avoiding any cricketing affinity while we’re based Down Under) merely prod the ball around and guard their stumps as if they’re perched atop the holy grail.

Well, they don’t do dull in Australia, especially not here at Melbourne Park….

Opening with a cracker: Monfils outlasts De Bakker
Thiemo De Bakker lit the tournaments spark in the first match on Hisense Arena, threatening to bump out 12th seed Gael Monfils in five captivating sets. The 2006 junior Wimbledon champ appeared destined to bump the Frenchman out in round one in Melbourne for the first time in five years, until, when leading two sets to love and serving for the match at 5-3, the Dutchman inexplicably lost his nerve. He fluffed several approach points at the net and after picking up a niggle saw the match slip from his grasp. It took Monfils until the fifth set to move in front for the first time when he broke for a 2-1 lead. He marked the occasion with a roar of delight as he walked back to his chair, in turn, 22-year-old De Bakker crushed his fist through a bin lid and the world no.12 rounded out a 6-7 2-6 7-5 6-2 6-1 triumph soon after.

De Bakker was asked of his goals for 2011 post match, but with his mind still understandably elsewhere, he replied: “To win a match.” Sure it may have been an opportunity missed, but brazen from today’s performance is that there’ll be plenty more matches for the youngster to win in the year ahead.

Sore note
Ah, non! World No.53 Julien Benneteau was forced to pull out of the tournament moments before the start of play on day one. The Frenchman failed to recover from an infected finger – which made his replacement Simon Greul a very happy man. Not for long I should add, the German lost in straight sets.

Glamour girls shine
Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki both lit up an overcast day at Melbourne Park by breezing through their opening matches, but Daniela Hantuchova had less fun of it. The Slovakian was defeated 7-6 3-6 9-7 by Regina Kulikova in a marathon match at Melbourne Park that lasted three hours and 39 minutes – a minute longer that the Monfils-De Bakker tie.

It’s not all about the Moolah…
Money’s a sideshow of course, or so they tell us, a small perk that makes the winning just a tiny bit sweeter. But the Australian Open 2011 has plenty of dough in the tournament safe to set player’s tongues wagging. This year’s tournament is the richest Grand Slam in history, with $25million dished out over the course of the two weeks. The lucky winner of the men’s and women’s draws takes home $2.2million.

Talking of champions…
The defending champ  – that’s Roger Federer  if your memory escapes you – rolled past Lukas Lacko in convincing fashion. Elsewhere, Sam Querrey – who hasn’t won a match at the Australian Open since 2008 – slumped out of the tournament at the hands of Lukasz Kubot. Marion Bartoli managed the tournament’s first double-bagel (in just 47 minutes), Mardy Fish battled back from two sets down to defeat Victor Hanescu in five and Britain’s Anne Keothavong secured her spot in round two after a straights sets victory over Arina Rodionova.

AOAOB – That’s ‘Any Other Australian Open Business’, for the uninitiated

Couldn’t sign off without a quick mention of the television adverts gracing Australian screens here. We’ve been treated to crocodiles playing tennis on Rod Laver Arena, the nation’s Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter whipping off his shirt in the name of some kind of cosmetics can, and home favourite Sam Stosur dishing out a healthy-eating monologue every five minutes. All good fun, I guess, but manufacturers may have missed the point – I’ve not a clue what any are advertising.

Over and out – with a fact: Monday’s combined day and night attendance was 55,372. Now, aren’t you glad you know that little gem?

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