AUSTRALIAN OPEN WOMENS DAY ONE:
Holder Caroline Wozniacki began her Australian Open title defence in solid fashion with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Belgian Alison van Uytvanck on Monday.
The Danish defending champion, seeded third, is playing the first major of the season for the 12th consecutive year; she needed just over 90 minutes to go through.
Wozniacki won her 41st match in Melbourne against just six defeats at the venue where she claimed the first Grand Slam trophy of her career last January.
The seed missed on her first two match point chances but came good on her third.
“She’s a tricky opponent, she played well,” the winner said.
“The first set was very high-level, she then stepped it up even further with her serving.
“I was happy to get early breaks, stay focussed and hold my serves.”
“It’s such a special feeling to come back and play here, I have some incredible memories from last year.”
2016 champion Angelique Kerber started her fortnight by defeating Slovenia’s Polona Herzog 6-2, 6-2.
The 30-year-old German, a former No. 1 now ranked second, needed 72 minutes to post the victory, never dropping serve and saving all four break points she faced.
Kerber beat Herzog for the fifth time in seven meetings, advancing despite managing a mere eight winners in victory; she was helped greatly by more than 40 unforced errors from her opponent.
“The first rounds are always tricky. I think that I was trying to finding my rhythm, especially in the first few games,” Kerber said.
“I was returning good. In the second set, I was feeling a little bit better, hitting the balls also with a little bit much more power. Overall, it was a good match for me.”
It took her five years, but Sloane Stephens finally broke a five-year duck in Melbourne, winner her first match here since 2014.
The former US Open winner and fifth seed beat compatriot countrywoman Taylor Townsend, 6-4, 6-2 to advance into the second round.
Stephens showed some promise at Melbourne Park in 2013 when she played the semi-finals and then advanced to the fourth-round a year later.
But after that, it was all downhill for the American over the next half-decade before she finally made her recovery on 2019 opening day with a 67-minute victory.
“It was a bit toasty. I was happy that it was shorter. Yeah, I think it was just starting to heat up as we were finishing, so I was happy to be off the court,” she said.
Greek Maria Sakkari won her opener over former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, with the Latvian suffering with the after-effects of a 2018 wrist injury.
Germany’s Andrea Petkovia collapsed in the extreme heat during the eighth game of her second set, walking off under her own power later but handing over a 6-7(3), 4-3 win to Romamian Irina-Camelia Begu.