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Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep move to 2nd round in Australian Open 2020

Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova all moved to round two of Australian Open 2020 while Mari Sharapova was eliminated in her opener.

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Melbourne Published on: January 21, 2020 18:39 IST
Germany's Angelique Kerber makes a backhand return to
Image Source : AP

Germany's Angelique Kerber makes a backhand return to Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto during their first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne

Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber advanced through the first round in straight sets, the 2016 Australian Open champion beating Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-2, 6-2 to close the night session on Rod Laver Arena. Two-time Grand Slam titlist Svetlana Kuznetsova took the harder route on an outside court, but was content to end a long drought.

Kuznetsova advanced past the first round of a Grand Slam event for the first time since 2017 after upsetting French Open runner-up and 15th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.Former No. 2-ranked Kuznetsova won the 2004 U.S. Open and the French Open in 2009. She skipped the Australian Open in 2018 and last year, and lost in the first round at all three other majors in both of those years.

Kuznetsova will play Camila Giorgi in the second round at Melbourne Park, where she has reached the quarterfinals three times.

Garbiñe Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam title winner but she sure looked on the way to a third consecutive first-round exit at a major when she dropped the opening set at love against American qualifier Shelby Rogers at the Australian Open.

And then Muguruza turned everything around in remarkable fashion, grabbing 12 of the last 13 games to beat Rogers 0-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017 and spent time at No. 1 in the rankings.

But she's unseeded at Melbourne Park and started as poorly as possible.

So what was she thinking late in that first set?

Muguruza recalled: "I said to myself, 'Hey, you're here, you're on the court, you're playing (at the) Australian Open. It's a special moment, so just hang in there and keep fighting.'"

It worked, somehow.

Cici Bellis has won a Grand Slam match for the first time in nearly three years after having a series of operations.

The 20-year-old Californian, once ranked as high as 35th, moved into the second round of the Australian Open by beating Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-0, 6-2.

Bellis was sidelined for about 20 months because she needed surgery on her right wrist or arm a total of four times.

Her last victory at a major tournament came when she got to the French Open's third round in 2017.

A year ago at this time, Bellis said, “Didn't think I'd be here.”

Two-time major winner Simona Halep took a tumble and then saved three set points in the first set before recovering to fend off Jennifer Brady 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the first round.

Halep has had four first-round exits at Melbourne Park, but not since she reached the final here in 2018 — having saved match points in third round and the semifinals.

She won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon last year, and is seeded fourth in Australia.

Halep hurt her right wrist when she stumbled on the court in the 10th game, and was broken in the 11th game. But she broke back immediately as Brady served for the set, and then dominated from midway through the tiebreaker.

Brady had wins over former No. 1 Maria Sharapova and top-ranked Ash Barty in a warm-up tournament and troubled Halep in the first set with her powerful ground strokes.

Former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova's run of first-round exits at the majors continued with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Donna Vekic at the Australian Open.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam title winner, was given a wild card for the main draw at Melbourne Park after her year-end ranking slipped to 136 in 2019 after a season interrupted by injuries. The 2008 Australian Open winner reached the fourth round here last year, missed the French Open and then lost in the first rounds at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova clinched a 6-1, 7-5 win with a late service break against Kristina Mladenovic in the opening match on at Rod Laver Arena on Day 2 of the Australian Open.

Pliskova, who lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the semifinals here last year, started the season with a title in Brisbane.

“It's a new beginning here,” Pliskova said. “The weeks before, nobody really counts and nobody remembers. But I had some very good matches.”

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

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