Barty and Osaka ease into Australian Open second round as Gauff and Kenin crash out

World No 1 and defending champion through in straight sets at Melbourne Park

Ashleigh Barty dropped just one game against Lesia Tsurenko in the Australian Open first round on Monday. Reuters
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Ashleigh Barty launched her bid for a first Australian Open title in emphatic style on Monday, crushing qualifier Lesia Tsurenko in just 54 minutes to ease into the second round at Melbourne Park.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was also comfortably through to the second round on the tournament's opening day, although former winner Sofia Kenin and her fellow American Cori Gauff were both eliminated.

Barty, aiming to become the first Australian woman to win the title since Christine O'Neil in 1978, was all business on Rod Laver Arena, taking command early to race through the first set to love and wrap up the match 6-0, 6-1 in an ominous warning to her rivals.

Ukraine's Tsurenko was no walkover. Despite being ranked No 120 and forced to qualify this year, the 32-year-old is an experienced player with four WTA titles to her name.

But she was out of her depth against the reigning Wimbledon champion who is strongly fancied to be crowned champion in two weeks' time, breaking her duck at a tournament where she has never gone beyond the semi-finals.

"This is beautiful, it's felt like an eternity since I've been here," Barty said of playing in front of her home crowd. "Playing as well as I did, it was a lot of fun. It felt nice and clean and I did a good job. Overall, I found my forehand and was able to control the court."

Showing typical poise, Barty cruised through her opening game for the loss of just one point and made a statement in the next, breaking Tsurenko at the first opportunity.

She faced a break point in the third game but recovered to go 3-0 in front then broke the struggling Ukrainian twice more to secure the set in 24 minutes.

The 25-year-old was unstoppable, with her power and accuracy too much for Tsurenko, who was broken again early to go 2-0 down in the second set.

She finally won a game for 5-1 to prevent an infamous "double-bagel" defeat and saved four match points, but the end was inevitable.

Barty came into the Australian Open in red-hot form, claiming the singles and doubles titles in Adelaide and appears at ease at her home Slam despite the weight of expectation.

Naomi Osaka started her Australian Open title defence with a straight sets win over Camila Osorio. Reuters

Osaka having 'fun' again

Osaka said she is enjoying her tennis again after the defending champion overcame an unexpectedly stiff challenge from Colombian Camila Osorio in her opening round.

The Japanese 24-year-old, who also triumphed at Melbourne Park in 2019, won 6-3 6-3 at the Rod Laver Arena, removing any doubts about her fitness after she withdrew from a recent tune-up event due to an abdominal injury.

The former world No 1 has slipped to 14th in the rankings after a tumultuous 2021 season, during which she struggled with mental health issues and pulled out of the French Open following a row over required media appearances.

After losing in the third round of the US Open in September, a tearful Osaka said she was unsure when she would play again.

"I think it kind of came throughout this off-season that I had where I felt like I wanted to come back to play tennis," Osaka told reporters. "I came back when I wanted to come back.

"I just felt like there are situations where I previously would get upset. But at this point in my life, I'm here because I want to be here and because I find that it's fun for me. Might as well enjoy it while I still can."

Cori Gauff's Australian Open campaign ended at the first hurdle. AP

Kenin and Gauff head home

Gauff crashed out in the opening round after an error-strewn performance against China's Wang Qiang as the 18th seed lost 6-4 6-2.

The 17-year-old American made 38 unforced errors to lose in 73 minutes against the 110th-ranked Chinese, who knocked Serena Williams out of the Australian Open two years ago to reach the fourth round.

"I don't know if it was just an off day or just getting used to it [conditions]," said Gauff, who had won her previous two meetings against former world number 12 Wang.

"Today I came into the match and the first couple of games, even though they were close, I was making more errors than I was used to.

"Just everything disappointed me about today. I feel in the pre-season, I worked really hard, and I felt like I was ready to have a good run here. Today I just didn't perform well.

"I didn't play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal."

Gauff's exit was soon followed by 2020 champion Kenin, who was handed a tough first round draw against compatriot Madison Keys - a former US Open finalist and world No 7 who has slipped down the rankings to 51 due to injuries.

Keys relied on her big serve on key points to beat Kenin 7-6, 7-5 on John Cain Arena.

Keys, who won her first trophy since 2019 at the Adelaide International 2 warm-up tournament last week, struggled to gain the upper hand in the contest before sealing the opening set in a tiebreak with her eighth ace.

In a see-sawing second set, Kenin conceded a decisive break to allow her opponent to go up 6-5 and, although she saved two match-points, was unable to prevent Keys closing out the victory on her serve.

Updated: January 17, 2022, 10:35 AM
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