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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Australian Open Day 2: Muguruza wins after Halep survives dramatic date with Destanee

Women's world No 1 battles back from set point down and needed medical attention after rolling ankle, before beating home hope 7-6, 6-1

Garbine Muguruza has had not had an ideal build up to the Australian Open. Vincent Thian / AP Photo
Garbine Muguruza has had not had an ideal build up to the Australian Open. Vincent Thian / AP Photo

Garbine Muguruza wore heavy strapping on her injured right thigh as she laboured to a 6-4, 6-3 victory against wildcard Jessika Ponchet in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

The world No 3 took an hour and 24 minutes to quell the plucky 21-year-old French world No 256.

Muguruza, seeded No 3, next faces Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei who prevailed in a see-saw match against China's Zhu Lin 0-6, 6-0, 8-6.

A quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, Spain's Muguruza dropped her first service game but from there battled back to take the first set in 43 minutes.

"It wasn't easy. I didn't know anything about her," Muguruza said of her opponent who was making her first main draw appearance in a WTA event, let alone a major.

"She's super talented. Serves and volleys, so I had to stay very concentrated."

Simona Halep of Romania grabs her ankle before receiving medical treatment in her match against Destanee Aiava of Australia during round one of the Australian Open. Joe Castro / EPA
Simona Halep of Romania grabs her ankle before receiving medical treatment in her match against Destanee Aiava of Australia during round one of the Australian Open. Joe Castro / EPA

Halep rises after a fall to win

World No 1 Simona Halep had to come from 5-2 and a set point down against Australian teenager Destanee Aiava to win a dramatic first-round match at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

Both the Romanian and her 17-year-old wild-card opponent needed on-court medical attention before top seed Halep ran out a battling 7-6, 6-1 winner in an hour and 51 minutes.

The top seed had fallen at the first hurdle in the past two years at Melbourne Park and another shock was beckoning when the big-hitting Australian took a 5-2 lead in the first set buoyed by rowdy home supporters.

"She was a very tough opponent," a relieved Halep said after the match. "She's very talented and powerful. She reminds me a little bit of Serena Williams."

But the fearless teenager's charge to the first set in her first appearance on Rod Laver Arena came to a dramatic halt as she called for a medical timeout at the change of ends, complaining of breathing problems.

After her blood pressure and pulse were taken she departed for further treatment.

On her return she managed to get to set point on the Romanian's serve, but once Halep held the tide turned.

Aiava was still dazed and even tried to change ends at 5-3 in her confused state until the umpire gently ushered her back.

Halep showed little of the form which helped her to the Shenzhen title two weeks ago but used her all experience to extend the rallies and force the ailing Australian to dig deep.

Halep eventually forced a tiebreak and finally squeezed over the finish line 7-5 in the tiebreaker to snatch a marathon first set after 73 minutes.

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After racing into a 2-0 lead to start the second there was more drama when Halep rolled her ankle horribly chasing down a backhand and fell to the ground needing immediate attention from the physio.

But when she returned with her right ankle newly taped she immediately broke Aiava for 3-0, a moment greeted by almost silence from the home supporters who badly needed to be lifted by the fast-fading Aiava.

But it wasn't to be as Halep got to the second round for the first time since 2015.

"I have a little injury so I don't know how it is going to be," Halep said of her ankle. "But it was a nice atmosphere out here even though you were all supporting her."

She now faces a mouth-watering clash against Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, a former semi-finalist in Melbourne and Roland Garros, and a finalist at Wimbledon in 2014.

Maria Sharapova won on her return to the Australian Open. Vincent Thian / AP Photo
Maria Sharapova won on her return to the Australian Open. Vincent Thian / AP Photo

Sharapova triumphs on return to Melbourne

Earlier, former champions Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber turned on the style to sweep into the Australian Open second round on Tuesday

With temperatures heating up in Melbourne, the two grand slam winners wasted little time on court.

Sharapova, still working her way back from a 15-month ban for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium, showed glimpses of the tennis that made her a five-time major winner.

The 2008 Melbourne Park champion, now ranked 48, battled past Germany's Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 and will next play either 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia or American Varvara Lepchenko.

"I cherish these moments. I love it here," said the Russian, who returned from her drugs ban in April last year.

"It's been a couple of years and I wanted it to be really meaningful to me."

Kerber carries good form into first round

Fellow former world No 1 Angelique Kerber, who won the tournament in 2016, was also impressive in dismissing Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-0, 6-4.

"2017, I have said goodbye already, I am not looking back," she said after a forgettable last season that saw her relinquish the number one spot and slide down the rankings.

She is now on a 10-match win streak after a perfect early season.

"I'm just trying to enjoy it again on court," said the German, who turns 30 this week.

Pliskova also makes second round

Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and eighth seed Caroline Garcia also progressed, in contrast to the other side of the draw that saw Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe crash out on Monday.

American woes continued with Madison Brengle sent packing by British ninth seed Johanna Konta.

Former world No 1 Pliskova was among those to move smoothly into the second round, with a steady 6-3, 6-4 win over Veronica Cepede Royg.

The tall tattooed Czech, who made the quarter-final in Australia last year, was largely untroubled and is looking for a deep run at the tournament.

"I'll take it match by match and I think I have a good chance," she said.

Sydney-born Konta also made the last eight in 2017 and showed no signs of her recent hip injury as she dismantled Brengle 6-3, 6-1.

She can't wait for her next match on Thursday even though temperatures are forecast to hit 40 Celsius later in the week.

"I look forward to the heat, I love it," she said.