The dominant Australian Open women’s favourite and the man who was two sets up in last year’s final have begun their Melbourne Park campaigns tonight.
But things weren’t so simple for Polish world No.1 Iga Swiatek.
She was made to work for her opening round win at the Australian Open, prevailing in two tight sets against big-hitting German Jule Niemeier.
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DAY 1 WRAP: TWO AUSSIES THROUGH AS 12-YEAR WAIT FINALLY ENDS
The reigning French Open and US Open champion took a hard-fought first set 6-4, but Niemeier was undaunted, keeping points short and taking control in the second set.
After going ahead by a break in the second set, Niemeier faced trouble serving at 4-3, but staved off trouble to move ahead to 5-3.
Both players pounded the ball in several engrossing rallies, but Niemeier looked determined to win or lose points on her own terms.
More errors began to flow from Niemeier’s racquet when she served for the set at 5-4, however, with Swiatek pouncing to draw level before holding to love to move ahead 6-5.
Niemeier was pressed once more on her serve, with Swiatek converting a match point at 30-40 to pull through in straight sets.
“It’s such a huge psychological advantage as well, for me – matches like these send a message to the locker room because everyone is watching, but she’s still fighting so hard for the second set,” Jelena Dokic said on Nine.
“Never gives up. She wasn’t comfortable, she could have easily lost the second set, but she fought hard for it, that is why she’s the world number one.”
It’s the second time in as many majors the 23-year-old Niemeier has caused Swiatek problems, taking the first set in last year’s US Open clash before ultimately losing in a decider.
Following their clash on centre court, Daniil Medvedev – a back-to-back finalist at this event – begins his quest to go a step further when he battles American Marcus Giron.
Also in action tonight were Greece’s No.3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, promising No.6 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, plus last year’s semi-finalist and women’s No.10 seed Madison Keys.
Tsitsipas was comfortable against France’s Quentin Halys early but the third set was a battle, seeing him save four set points to force a tiebreak, then coming back from 3-0 down to claim it and the match, 6-3 6-4 7-6(6).
Auger-Aliassime’s clash with compatriot Vasek Pospisil began in bizarre fashion, with the sixth seed barely firing a shot as he quickly fell behind.
It took Pospisil just under 40 minutes to take the opening set 6-1, threatening a huge boilover on John Cain Arena, though Auger-Aliassime fought his way to consecutive tiebreak wins, 7-6(4) 7-6(3).
Meanwhile Stan Wawrinka was knocked out in a five-setter against Alex Molcan, having served for the match in the fourth set, 6-7(3) 6-3 1-6 7-6(2) 4-6.
AUSSIES IN ACTION
The local contingent has added a silver lining to the dark cloud of Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal from the Australian Open with three Aussies making it into the second round so far.
In the day session Jason Kubler ended his 12-year wait for a main draw win at his home grand slam while the Ash Barty-inspired Olivia Gadecki won through in straight sets.
Then veteran John Millman used his trademark grit to survive a five-set thriller against Swiss Marc-Andrea Huesler, 6-7(8) 7-5 6-7(2) 6-2 6-3.
The Aussie led 5-0 in the opening set tiebreak before dropping it 10-8, and led 5-2 in the third set before losing it in another tiebreak.
But Millman kept fighting in front of a heavily partisan crowd and forced a deciding set which he claimed after more than four hours’ play – though it took his third match point to clinch it.
It was Millman’s third win in 12 career five-setters, and his second win at that length at the Australian Open.
Millman is likely to face Daniil Medvedev in the second round, assuming the back-to-back finalist wins later tonight.
Rinky Hijikata is trying to join his compatriot and has had to come from two sets down to do it.
The Aussie struggled early against Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann but stormed back into the match in front of a loud Court 8 crowd. A 71-minute fourth set ended in a thrilling tiebreak going the local’s way to make it 4-6 4-6 6-3 7-6(5).
Hijikata had the best break opportunity early in the decider but Hanfmann served consecutive aces from 15-40 and served it out for 2-2.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2023
Night 1 Order Of Play
Rod Laver Arena
Night session from 7pm
 Iga Swiatek (POL) def Jule Niemeier (GER) 6-4 7-5
Marcus Giron (USA) v  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
Show Court 1
Night session from 7pm
 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) def Quentin Halys (FRA) 6-3 6-4 7-6(6)
 Madison Keys (USA) v Anna Blinkova (RUS)
John Cain Arena
Night session not before 6pm
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v  Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 6-1 6-7(4) 6-7(3)
Aussies in action
Kia Arena, Match 4
Xinyu Wang (CHN) v Storm Hunter (AUS) 7-6(2)
Court 3, Match 4
John Millman (AUS) def Marc-Andrea Huesler (SWI) 6-7(8) 7-5 6-7(2) 6-2 6-3
Court 8, Match 4
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) v Rinky Hijikata (AUS) 6-4 6-4 3-6
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