First set: Laura Siegemund* 1-0 Serena Williams (* denotes next server) A rather inauspicious start for Serena, who starts with a double fault and never really recovers. Siegemund’s eyes light up and she takes full advantage, breaking at the first time of asking with a cracking forehand effort. Excellent opening game for the German!
On her record-equalling grand slam tilt at this year’s Open, Serena has said it is very much on her mind, but not a weight on her shoulders. “It’s definitely on my shoulders and on my mind and it’s good to be on my mind,” Williams said before the tournament began. “It’s a different burden, I should say, on my shoulders because I’m used to it now and it’s more relaxing.”
After a lengthy pep talk from the umpire – including details on exactly where the shot clocks are located on court – Serena wins the toss and opts to serve first. The players head out for a warm-up.
In the women’s draw, Venus Williams is two games away from a place in the second round – the American leads Kirsten Flipkins 7-5, 4-2 on Margaret Court Arena. And her sister, Serena, has just taken to Rod Laver Arena for her match with Laura Siegemund. Serena, of course, is chasing a 24th grand slam title. And we’ll focus on her opener for the next little while.
OK, time to go around the grounds and check in on the other big matches.
As mentioned, Stan Wawrinka is on John Cain Arena and on top in his match against Pedro Sousa. The Swiss is leading 4-1. Milos Raonic, the big-serving Canadian is two sets to the good against Federico Coria – younger brother of Guillermo – and a game up in the third. Home hope John Millman is in a fight on Court 3 against the Frenchman Corentin Moutet – he’s 5-4 ahead in the second, having lost the first.
Crowd favourite 10th seed Gael Monfils has just dropped the second set as Emil Ruusuvuori levelled things up at 1-1 while Reilly Opelka, he who has endeared himself to the Australian public with claims of not having been made welcome, is on his way to staying a bit longer, having just won a second-set tie-break to go 2-0 up against Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan.
Here’s Naomi Osaka, being interviewed on court: “I was really nervous coming into this match and knew it was going to be tough. I’m just really happy to see people in the stands. It’s been really lonely in New York.
“I feel like everyone’s body has been shocked, coming [to Australia] and playing matches.”
Game, set and match Osaka
Naomi Osaka beats Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2 Lovely stuff from Pavlyuchenkova as she steps in and unleashes a blistering backhand back past Osaka! The Russian’s going down swinging at least. But when Osaka’s serve sends her well wide a few points later, she’s facing match point. And that is that, Pavlyuckenkova is long and Osaka eases into the second round!
Second set: Naomi Osaka* 6-1, 5-2 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) “Come on!” shouts Osaka as she edges ahead at 30-15 with a backhand winner. You sense she wants to wrap this one up inside the next two games. And she’s well on course to do so – the 2019 champion will now serve for the match.
Second set: Naomi Osaka 6-1, 4-2 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova* (* denotes next server) Some encouraging signs from Pavlyuchenkova again this game, as she applies a bit more pressure on Osaka, forcing her to deuce. A blistering forehand from the Russian denies Osaka on game point but that’s as far as she can get. Osaka holds and Pavlyuchenkova really must hold her own serve now if she’s to stand any remote chance of staying in this match.
Over on John Cain Arena, Stan Wawrinka is up and running against Pedro Sousa of Portugal and has taken the opening game.
Second set: Naomi Osaka* 6-1, 3-2 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova keeps alive with what is arguably her most straightforward service game of the day. That is exactly what she needed at this point of the match – you feel that if she was broken again, it could have been curtains.
Over on Margaret Court Arena, Venus Williams has taken a hard-fought first set against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 7-5. Venus’s sister, Serena, is up next on Rod Laver.
Second set: Naomi Osaka 6-1, 3-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova* (* denotes next server) Is that… a left-handed shot from the right-handed Pavlyuchenkova? It is! It doesn’t come off though, and Osaka races to another love-service game.
Second set: Naomi Osaka* 6-1, 2-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) Oof, a glorious forehand down the line from Osaka leaves Pavlyuchenkova with no hope of getting it back, and two points later the Japanese delivers another high-class shot, this time a backhand on the other side of the court, to break again! Wonderful tennis from Osaka. She’s threatening to race away with this one now.
Second set: Naomi Osaka 6-1, 1-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova* (* denotes next server) A quickfire service game from Osaka now. She wastes no time on her way to winning it to love. Back to you, Anastasia.
Second set: Naomi Osaka* 6-1, 0-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova gives a strong hint of recovery, going 40-0 up in the first game of the second set, but some sloppy shotmaking allows Osaka to get back to deuce. The sloppiness doesn’t end there and a double fault threatens to help Osaka to another break, but Pavlyuchenkova holds her nerve to hold. Another held service game for the Russian, but again it wasn’t straightforward.
Over on Court 3, Australia’s John Millman has dropped the first set to Corentin Moutet of France, 6-4.
First set: Naomi Osaka 6-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova* (* denotes next server) It takes Osaka 33 minutes to wrap up the first set, and she looks in complete control of this match. It’s hard to see any weaknesses in her game so far, despite how much Pavlyuchenkova tries to examine her. What can the Russian produce in the second?
First set: Naomi Osaka* 5-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) A double fault at 30-30 does Pavlychenkova no favours at all here. That’s a shame, you don’t want to give Osaka a freebie like that. Osaka duly works her opponent around the court with apparent ease to break back. The third seed will now serve for the first set.
First set: Naomi Osaka 4-1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova* (* denotes next server) But here is a chance for the Russian – she digs deep and brings up two break points. The first one goes begging but she’s successful on the second thanks to an unforced Osaka error! Pavlyuchenkova is on the board, although it might be too late to salvage anything from the opening set. Let’s see what she can take from this game.
First set: Naomi Osaka* 4-0 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) Oh dear. Pavlyuchenkova gives everything she has in this game, including a delightful, inch-perfect drop shot seems to give her some confidence, but still Osaka breaks, on her third break point in what is by far the longest game of the match so far. And that’s the problem for players like Pavlyuchenkova who face opponents of the quality of Osaka – it’s a long hard slog to get anything out of them when they’re on form. And Osaka is showing some good form at the moment.
First set: Naomi Osaka 3-0 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova* (* denotes next server) Osaka races to 40-0 before a long forehand blots an otherwise perfect copybook this game. She seals it without further ado and it’s looking very comfortable for the three-time grand slam champion.
First set: Naomi Osaka* 2-0 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) No sign of that niggling injury so far as Osaka breaks for the first time today. The Japanese shows her class with a wonderful forehand winner before she levels things up at 30-30, but she then returns into the net to give Pavlyuchenkova game point. The Russian fails to capitalise though, and it proves a costly miss as a backhand winner then paves the way for Osaka to open up a two-game advantage.
First set: Naomi Osaka* 1-0 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (* denotes next server) Osaka looks confident in her opening service game, erring just twice with one wayward serve to kick things off and then a long forehand at 40-0 up. In between, she wrongfoots Pavlyuchenkova and strikes a couple of nice forehand winners. Good start for the No 3 seed.
Righty- ho, here we go. “First set. Naomi Osaka to serve. Ready? Play.”
It would be remiss of me to ignore the other grand sporting occasion currently in play, over in the US – it’s Super Bowl Sunday over there of course. My colleague Tom Lutz is manning the liveblog for that one, if gridiron is your thing:
To the tennis! Osaka and Pavlyuchenkova have taken to the Rod Laver Arena court and are warming up. Won’t be too much longer. “Three minutes,” is the call from the chair umpire.