Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic power through to Australian Open second round

It was a relatively easy opening day for the two favorites in Melbourne. (AFP)
Updated 15 January 2019

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic power through to Australian Open second round

  • Serena makes light work of Tatjana Maria, winning 6-0, 6-2 in 49 minutes.
  • Men's No. 1 Djokovic also wins in straight sets on the Rod Laver Arena.

MELBOURNE: This was quite a return for Serena Williams. Almost as if she never left.
In her first match at the Australian Open since winning the 2017 title while pregnant — and her first official match anywhere since a loss in the chaotic US Open final last September — Williams looked to be at her dominant best, overpowering Tatjana Maria 6-0, 6-2 in the first round on Tuesday.
“I kind of like to jump in the deep end and swim,” Williams said after the 49-minute match, ”and see what happens.”
She had not dipped her toe in Grand Slam waters since New York, where everything devolved after Williams was warned for getting coaching, then docked a point for breaking a racket and eventually docked a game for calling the chair umpire “a thief” during the final.
When that match was mentioned by a reporter during Williams’ news conference on Tuesday, as part of a question about whether coaching should be allowed during matches at majors, she replied, “I, like, literally have no comment.”
Truth be told, the match against Maria was not much of a test for Williams, given that the 74th-ranked German entered with an 11-15 record in first-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments, only once has made it as far as the third round at any major and owns a total of one career WTA title after a dozen years on the tour.
Williams, meanwhile, is pursuing an eighth title in Melbourne and 24th Slam singles trophy overall, which would equal Margaret Court — whose career spanned the amateur and professional eras — for the most in tennis history.
“I have been going for the record (for) what seems like forever now,” the 37-year-old Williams said, “so it doesn’t feel any different.”
Other seeded winners in a busy Tuesday included No. 4 Naomi Osaka, No. 7 Karolina Pliskova, No. 12 Elize Mertens, No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova, No. 17 Madison Keys and No. 18 Garbine Muguruza among the women, plus No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 8 Kei Nishikori, No. 11 Borna Coric and No. 12 Fabio Fognini among the men.
Both Nishikori, who had dropped the opening two sets against qualifier Kamil Majchrzak, and Fognini advanced when their opponents retired mid-match.
French Open finalist Dominic Thiem went the distance against Benoit Paire before wrapping up a 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 1-6, 6-3 win just after 2 am.
Williams’ older sister, Venus, is unseeded at a major for the first time in five years and she was a game from a first-round exit before coming all the way back to eliminate 25th-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.
She is a seven-time major champion and a two-time runner-up in Australia but is currently ranked only 36th.
The tournament’s two No. 1 seeds, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, played at night and both won — although in contrasting fashion. Djokovic eliminated Mitchell Krueger of the US 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, while Halep trailed by a set and a break before coming back to beat Kaia Kanepi 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 and avoid becoming the first top-seeded woman in 40 years to lose her opening match at the Australian Open.
Krueger was part of a rough day for American men, who went 1-5 Tuesday; Ryan Harrison had the lone victory.


English Premier League to restart on June 17

Updated 12 min 15 sec ago

English Premier League to restart on June 17

  • No matches have been played since Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9

LONDON: The Premier League season is set to restart on June 17, three months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, British media reported on Thursday.

No matches have been played since Leicester's 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9, with Liverpool just two wins away from securing the title.

Top-flight clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to return to contact training and were meeting again on Thursday to discuss issues such as the restart date and the rebate to broadcasters.

Matches would have to be played behind closed doors, much like they have been in Germany's Bundesliga since it restarted earlier in May.

The BBC reported that the first two matches would be Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Those matches are the two games in hand.

A full fixture list would then be played on the weekend of June 19-21.

So far, 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the Premier League.

La Liga in Spain hopes to return from June 11, while a crucial summit between Italian football officials and the country's sports minister will be held later on Thursday.

Liverpool were 25 points clear of 2019 champions Manchester City when the Premier league was shut down, on the verge of being crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years.

Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.

The BBC will for the first time air free-of-charge Premier League soccer games live when the season restarts next month, the broadcaster said on Thursday.

"This opportunity creates an historic moment for the BBC and our audiences. At a time when sports fans across the country are in need of lift, this is very welcome news," Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said.