Thrills, anxiety as 2017 Australian Open serves off

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Switzerland’s Roger Federer (R) shakes hands with Austria’s Jurgen Melzer after victory during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2017. PHOTO: PETER PARKS / AFP

The tone of the day was set with the upset victory by American Shelby Rogers over the fourth seed, Simona Halep of Romania, in straight sets 6/3; 6/1. In the same Rod Laver Arena, “veteran” Venus Williams’ achieved a narrow victory over Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova in two close sets 7/5; 7/6 (5). In that pattern, however, no one anticipated the titanic struggle in the match between top-seeded Andy Murray and Ivan Marchenko of Ukraine.

Murray battled through the first set, which he clinched with a single break. A tie-break was needed to settle the second, taken by the world number one by seven points to five. At that stage, it was clear that Marchenko had put in his all and he lost the third set six games to two.

The Murray thriller was followed by the match between Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine and defending champion, Angelique Kerber of Germany. Kerber won the first set in a jiffy and it seemed a routine day on court, but it turned out differently. In the second set, the hard serving Lesia held serve until she was broken in the ninth game.

Serving for the match, Kerber was up 30-love and had match point at 40-30 but could not close out the set. A single break point at deuce gave the Ukrainian the advantage, which she held to tie five games apiece. With her booming serve, Tsurenko recovered from love-30 and three break points to deuce before taking the game on first advantage point for a 6-5 lead. The world’s number one player needed to hold and take set into tiebreak, but she was forced to deuce. The first advantage point went to the Ukrainian but she needed four more opportunities to clinch the game and set 7/5. At that stage, it looked like an upset was in the offing.

In the deciding third set, Tsurenko jumped to a 40-15 lead but needed a second advantage point to hold. The tough fighter, Kerber, took her game quickly dropping but one point. Tsurenko held to lead two games to one. The fourth game will be remembered for a long time by the Ukrainian. Serving to level, Kerber fell behind 30-40 but fought through a long rally to deuce and wasted no time in holding the game on the first advantage. Tsurenko faced a break point on her serve and lost the game to give Kerber her first lead since the ninth game of the first set. The world number one took the next three games for a five-game stretch that gave her the match.

Kerber’s victory was a result of her doggedness and excellent court defence, in face of the barrage of hard serves hammered down by her opponent, who averaged 138km/h and attained a delivery speed of 171km/h several times in the contest.

The match was reminiscent of Kerber’s first round match a year ago, when she faced match point against Japan’s Misaki Do.
It was a great day for Australia as Nick Kyrgios overpowered Portugal’s Gastao Elias 6/1; 6/2; 6/2, while Brian Tomic dismissed Brazil’s Thomaz Belucci 6/2; 6/1; 6/4.

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