Women’s 2021 Australian Open Day 1: Osaka, Serena, Halep on show

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Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Simona Halep are all in action on a bumper day one of the Australian Open

The women’s Australian Open begins on Monday with US Open champion Naomi Osaka kicking things off, followed by Serena Williams, beginning her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and then, in the night session, Simona Halep, chasing a first title in Melbourne.

Rod Laver Arena: Osaka and Serena in day session; Halep at night

Gone are the days when first-round matches were a walk in the park. For Osaka, things could get tough pretty quickly as she faces big-hitting Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne in three of the past four years. But the 2019 Australian Open champion sounded confident as she assessed her draw, even though she pulled out of the warm-up event with a niggling shoulder issue.

“I saw the projected draw of me and I actually, I’m kind of excited,” she said. “I like playing tough people, especially in slams. Honestly I’ve never seen a projected draw come true, so I guess it will be interesting for all of us.

Naomi Osaka

Williams going for history; Halep gets the night session

Serena Williams will also have to hit the ground running when she plays Laura Siegemund of Germany in the second match on Rod Laver Arena. The 39-year-old gave everyone a scare when she pulled out of the WTA500 warm-up event citing a shoulder injury. But the seven-time Australian Open champion says she’s raring to go as she chases another piece of history.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve gotten a lot of treatment already on my shoulder,” she said on Saturday. “But I’m super confident it’s going to be great. I’m feeling very confident, I think is a better word, and getting ready for hopefully the next two weeks.”

Second seed Simona Halep is usually a crowd favourite wherever she goes. But the Romanian, the runner-up in Melbourne in 2018, may find the crowd against her for once when she plays the first match of the night session against Lizette Cabrera of Australia.

Margaret Court Arena: Venus, Kerber, Kvitova on show

It’s 23 years since Venus Williams made her debut at the Australian Open but the American is still going at the grand old age of 40 and she’ll get things going on MCA with a first-round battle against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.

She’ll be followed by former champion Angelique Kerber, seeded 23 this year, who faces American left-hander Bernarda Pera, before Petra Kvitova, the runner-up in Melbourne two years ago, takes on Belgian Greet Minnen in her opening match.

John Cain Arena: The return of Andreescu

It’s more than a year since Bianca Andreescu played a competitive match but having finally recovered from injury, the Canadian makes her return. The former US Open champion will need to be on song, though, when she plays Mihaela Burzanescu, the Romanian was was ranked inside the top 20 just three years ago.

“I’ve prepared in the best way that I could,” Andreescu said. “I had a good five-month pre-season, I would say. Yeah, at this point I’m just super grateful to be back, healthy. And, yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.”

Andreescu US OPEN 2019

Outside courts: Swiatek begins title bid

Iga Swiatek’s victory at Roland-Garros was one of the biggest surprises – and amazing stories – in 2020 and the brilliant young Pole starts her Australian Open campaign on the 1573 Arena against Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.

Rus is a talented performer and Swiatek, seeded No 15, knows that many eyes will be on her to see if she can continue to perform on the Grand Slam stage.

“Actually I feel like more pressure than usual,” she said. “It feels little bit different on court because I feel like people are not treating me as an underdog any more, and I have to adjust to that. But I want it to be the same. I want to enjoy the tournament as I did enjoy like every one of it. I’m just going to try to lower my expectations and remember that it doesn’t matter if I’m underdog or not, everybody is starting from the same position when they’re on court. I’m going to work with that.”

Australian Open women’s singles draw and Monday’s full order of play

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