Homegrown tennis stars have enjoyed their best Australian Open in 29 years with 12 Aussie players making it through to the second round of the Grand Slam.
The last time a dozen Australian players made it past the first round across both singles draws was in 1992 when Aussie icons Pat Cash and Wally Masur were among the domestic hopefuls.
World No.1 women’s tennis star Ash Barty will take on unseeded outsider Daria Gavrilova on Thursday after the two Aussies dominated in their opening matches.
The pair are close friends off the court and are likely to take the main stage on Rod Laver or Margaret Court Arena on Thursday night in the highly-anticipated clash.
Sam Stosur – making her 19th and potentially last Open at the age of 36 – will play fellow veteran Zhang Shuai at 1.35pm on Wednesday after winding back the clock to secure a straight sets victory in her first round match.
Alex de Minaur will take to the court on Thursday after dominating American quarantine moper Tennys Sandgren, as will fellow countryman while Thanasi Kokkinakis who claimed an emotional first Australian Open win in six years.
Five other Aussies won on Monday – controversial firebrand Nick Kyrgios, wildcard Bernard Tomic, Alex Bolt, James Duckworth and Ajla Tomljanovic.
From plucky outsiders to tournament favourites, here’s your rundown of all the domestic stars you need to watch and when over the next two weeks.
Ash Barty lost just 10 points as she thrashed Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-0, 6-0 on Tuesday night
Barty will now take on unseeded outsider Daria Gavrilova on Thursday in a tantalising all-Australian second round matchup
NEXT STOP FOR AUSTRALIAN OPEN’S DOMESTIC HOPEFULS
Wednesday, February 10:
Ajla Tomljanovic vs (2) Simona Halep – 7pm
Alex Bolt vs (18) Grigor Dimitrov – 8.15pm
Nick Kyrgios vs (29) Ugo Humbert – 7pm
James Duckworth vs (20) Felix Auger-Aliassime – 12.15pm
Bernard Tomic vs (11) Denis Shapovalov – 4pm
Thursday, February 11:
(1) Ash Barty vs Daria Gavrilova – TBD
(21) Alex de Minaur vs Pablo Cuevas – TBD
Sam Stosur vs Jessica Pegula – TBD
Thanasi Kokkinakis vs (5) Stefanos Tsitsipas – TBD
Alexei Popyrin vs Lloyd Harris – TBD
Chris O’Connell vs Radu Albot – TBD
Australia’s best shot crushes first round opposition
Barty needed a mere 44 minutes to dispose of world No.82 Danka Kovinic 6-0 6-0 in a devastating Australian Open display that sent officials scrambling for the record books.
The ruthless ‘double bagel’ marked the first time an Australian had won at the Australian Open without conceding a single game since Wendy Turnbull in 1985.
Turnbull achieved the feat in back-to-back matches, beating Susan Leo in the first round 6-0 6-0 and Liz Smylie in the second with the same scoreline.
Ominously, Barty last year became the first Australian woman since Turnbull in 1984 to reach the Open semi-finals.
Barty will be aiming to go all the way this month, and her first-up display is sure to put her rivals on notice.
She takes on fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova, whose ranking has dived to 451st in the world after suffering serious foot issues that threatened to end her career.
In her prime, Gavrilova – once dubbed ‘Australia’s princess’ during a fairytale run to the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2016 – has the talent to take on the world’s best.
The 26-year-old showed glimpses of that genius on Tuesday night as she dismantled Spaniard Sorribes Tormo in straight sets, setting up a mouthwatering clash with her close friend Barty on Thursday.
Nick Kyrgios during his straight sets win over Portugal’s Frederico Ferreira. The victory sets up a tricky second-round clash with world No.34 Frenchman Ugo Humbert
Controversial firebrand-turned-‘wise old man’ back after a year out from the game
Firebrand Nick Kyrgios said he feels like a ‘wise old man’ now after gaining a greater perspective on life and tennis.
Kyrgios overcame a slow start to beat Portugal’s Frederico Ferreira Silva 6-4 6-4 6-4 in 119 minutes in their round-one Australian Open encounter on Monday night.
The world No.47 blew a series of break-point opportunities in the first set, but his overall class and powerful serving proved too much to handle for Ferreira Silva.
The result sets up a tricky second-round clash with world No.34 Frenchman Ugo Humbert.
Kyrgios took almost a year out from the game during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although he has displayed his usual on-court antics and verbal sprays during his return, Kyrgios feels like he is now in a better position to ride the ups and downs of tennis.
‘I feel old. I feel like this sport has stressed me out. I feel like an old soul,’ Kyrgios said.
‘At the end of the day I know it’s just a tennis match. I mean obviously I’m going to get angry as I’m playing. I’m a competitor, I want to win.
Alexei Popyrin (pictured with girlfriend Amy) is through to the second round of the Australian Open after a sensational first-round upset of No.13 seed David Goffin at the Australian Open
Young gun coming off a huge five-set upset
A change in mentality and improved fitness saw Alexei Popyrin secure the biggest win of his career, sending No.13 seed David Goffin packing in a huge first-round upset at the Australian Open.
The 21-year-old local hope saved four match points in the fourth set and then stepped up a gear in the decider against the flagging Belgian to win 3-6 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 in three hours and 43 minutes.
Popyrin’s dogged determination has already earned him comparisons with Aussie tennis great and former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt.
The Sydney-born star’s reward is an eminently winnable second-round encounter with South African world No.91 Lloyd Harris.
Popyrin saved four match points in the fourth set to claim a remarkable scalp on day two of the tournament
Popyrin, who has reached the third round at Melbourne Park in each of the past two years, was elated by the win, which he rated as his best ever.
‘That was No.1 – by far,’ Popyrin said.
‘Especially against who I played, a top 20 player, and also to save match points against him and beat him in five sets when he’s known as like probably one of the fittest guys on tour was really pleasing.’
Popyrin, ranked 113th, said he’d worked hard on his own fitness after putting on weight during lockdown.
Bernard Tomic claimed his first win at a grand slam tournament in two-and-a-half years on Monday night with his reality TV love interest Vanessa Sierra cheering him on courtside
Backed by reality TV love interest Vanessa Sierra, Tomic fought back after a nervous start in the first-round
Volatile star ends Australian Open drought
Bernard Tomic’s first win at a grand slam tournament in two-and-a-half years wasn’t enough to genuinely excite the Australian Open qualifier.
The 28-year-old was at least pleased to play some ‘unbelievable’ tennis at times during a victory he achieved when Japan’s Yuichi Sugita retired hurt on Monday night.
Urged on by his courtside ‘coach’ – reality TV love interest Vanessa Sierra – and father John, Tomic fought back after a nervous start in the first-round affair and appeared headed for victory when Sugita took a medical time-out during the third set.
Sugita, nursing an abdominal complaint, carried on for two more games but couldn’t complete the match, which Tomic led 3-6 6-1 4-1 when it was called off.
‘I played very, very badly in the first set,’ Tomic said.
‘I was kind of a little bit nervous. It was windy, it was cold. It was pretty bad.
‘But the second and third was some of the best tennis I’ve played in a while.’
The result sets up a round-two showdown with world No.12 Denis Shapovalov, who beat rising star Jannik Sinner 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4 in a five-set thriller.
Thanasi Kokkinakis won his first game at the Australian Open in six years. The result was a remarkable turnaround for a player who was floored by glandular fever this time last year
South Australian’s emotional Open breakthrough
Tears welled in Thanasi Kokkinakis’ eyes as the injury-plagued talent claimed an emotional first win at the Australian Open in six years.
The 24-year-old produced an irresistible display of power hitting and thundered 19 aces in a dominant 6-4 6-1 6-1 win over South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon.
The result had been a long-time coming for Kokkinakis, who was floored by glandular fever this time last year and has endured a long list of serious injury setbacks throughout his career.
‘At 5-0 (in the third set) I felt this massive roar and cheer from the crowd and I started tearing up,’ Kokkinakis said.
‘It was a bit of a soft moment but there was just so much stuff behind the scenes to get back to that point that not a lot of people realise.
‘I definitely got a bit emotional.’
Kokkinakis blasted 30 winners as he out-gunned and out-manoeuvred Kwon in a match that lasted just 93 minutes.
Australian veteran Sam Stosur reacts during her All-Australian first round women’s singles win against Destanee Aiava
Aussie veteran holding back Father Time
Sam Stosur, making her 19th and potentially last Open, overcame 20-year-old Aiava 6-4 6-4 on Tuesday night.
The 36-year-old took most of 2020 off after her partner Liz Astling gave birth to daughter Evie in June and hasn’t committed to another trip to Melbourne Park beyond this year.
After despairingly carrying the hopes of the nation for so long before handing over to Australia’s current world No.1 Ash Barty, Stosur looked relaxed out on John Cain Arena.
Bidding to improve on her career-best fourth-round showings in 2006 and 2010, the 2011 US Open champion said she felt her match went to plan.
‘I felt I was a lot more consistent and controlled than last week. ‘I thought that I executed really well, which is all you can ask for,’ Stosur said.
Aussie men’s No.1 Alex de Minaur returned to Melbourne Park with purpose in his 7-5 6-1 6-1 rout of outspoken American Tennys Sandgren
National men’s No.1 on a hot streak
After missing last year’s Open with an abdominal tear, Alex de Minaur returned to Melbourne Park with purpose in his 7-5 6-1 6-1 rout of outspoken American Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.
The win comes after the Aussie men’s No.1, 21, who made the US Open quarter-finals last year, snared his fourth career title last month in Turkey.
De Minaur’s superior court speed and fitness may have in part been due to the fact Sandgren was one of 72 players to endure two weeks of hard quarantine upon his arrival in Australia.
De Minaur, who turns 22 next week, will take on Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas in the second round.