Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova glittered under the Rod Laver Arena lights yesterday, restoring order at the Australian Open after eight women’s seeds crashed out in the afternoon sun on a manic opening day.
The evergreen Federer strolled into the second round with a classy 6-4 6-2 7-5 win over Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun before fellow second seed Sharapova ruined Croatian qualifier Petra Martic’s 24th birthday with a 6-4 6-1 victory.
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray also enjoyed comfortable wins as three of the men’s Big Four shook out the early-season rust.
Although the retired Li Na is not defending her singles title, the glowing Chinese stole the spotlight when she announced on court she was expecting her first child.
The hole left by the twice grand slam champion’s absence is begging to be filled and a rejuvenated Sharapova, dressed to kill in a smart red outfit, looked the part in a controlled display against the outgunned Martic.
Federer joined Sharapova in the winners’ circle at the Brisbane International this month and, on his coach Stefan Edberg’s 49th birthday, the Swiss notched his 1 001st tour win.
“Winning in the first round, it’s always a bit of a relief. I thought I played well,” the 33-year-old said after dashing around the court like a frantic teenager against the 47th-ranked Lu.
While seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard advanced with a straight-sets victory over 98th-ranked German Anna-Lena Friedsam, half of the 16 women’s seeds in action were swept away before the sun had set on a glorious day.
Fifth seed Ana Ivanovic was the highestprofile casualty, the former world No 1 falling in three sets to doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.
Ninth-seeded German Angelique Kerber blamed a bad day at the office after being dumped out by Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in three topsy-turvy sets.
Lucie Safarova (16), Carla Suarez Navarro (17) and twice grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) were also among the eight sent packing.
It was steadier going on the men’s side where an undercooked Nadal felt the confidence flooding back after thrashing Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny.
Coming back after a long layoff from injury and illness, Nadal gloomily ruled himself out of title contention before the event but the Spaniard eased quickly into the grand slam groove with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win.
“This first match here was tough mentally” the 2009 champion said on centre court, resplendent in a pink shirt and a fluorescent yellow headband.
“I hope this match will give me confidence as I play the next round.”
Sixth seed Murray, bidding for a maiden Australian Open title after three trips to the final, opened up with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (3) win over Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri, occasionally berating himself but pleased overall with his display at the refurbished Margaret Court Arena.
Romania’s Simona Halep, seeded third and fancied to break through for a maiden grand slam title this year, had few worries in a 6-3 6-2 rout of Italian Karin Knapp.
Men’s seventh seed Tomas Berdych went through without fuss while No10 Grigor Dimitrov, tipped to rock the tennis establishment after a breakout 2014 season, showed ominous form with a 6-2 6-3 6-2 victory over German Dustin Brown.
– George Byron