Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic power through to Australian Open second round

It was a relatively easy opening day for the two favorites in Melbourne. (AFP)
Updated 15 January 2019

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic power through to Australian Open second round

  • Serena makes light work of Tatjana Maria, winning 6-0, 6-2 in 49 minutes.
  • Men's No. 1 Djokovic also wins in straight sets on the Rod Laver Arena.

MELBOURNE: This was quite a return for Serena Williams. Almost as if she never left.
In her first match at the Australian Open since winning the 2017 title while pregnant — and her first official match anywhere since a loss in the chaotic US Open final last September — Williams looked to be at her dominant best, overpowering Tatjana Maria 6-0, 6-2 in the first round on Tuesday.
“I kind of like to jump in the deep end and swim,” Williams said after the 49-minute match, ”and see what happens.”
She had not dipped her toe in Grand Slam waters since New York, where everything devolved after Williams was warned for getting coaching, then docked a point for breaking a racket and eventually docked a game for calling the chair umpire “a thief” during the final.
When that match was mentioned by a reporter during Williams’ news conference on Tuesday, as part of a question about whether coaching should be allowed during matches at majors, she replied, “I, like, literally have no comment.”
Truth be told, the match against Maria was not much of a test for Williams, given that the 74th-ranked German entered with an 11-15 record in first-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments, only once has made it as far as the third round at any major and owns a total of one career WTA title after a dozen years on the tour.
Williams, meanwhile, is pursuing an eighth title in Melbourne and 24th Slam singles trophy overall, which would equal Margaret Court — whose career spanned the amateur and professional eras — for the most in tennis history.
“I have been going for the record (for) what seems like forever now,” the 37-year-old Williams said, “so it doesn’t feel any different.”
Other seeded winners in a busy Tuesday included No. 4 Naomi Osaka, No. 7 Karolina Pliskova, No. 12 Elize Mertens, No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova, No. 17 Madison Keys and No. 18 Garbine Muguruza among the women, plus No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 8 Kei Nishikori, No. 11 Borna Coric and No. 12 Fabio Fognini among the men.
Both Nishikori, who had dropped the opening two sets against qualifier Kamil Majchrzak, and Fognini advanced when their opponents retired mid-match.
French Open finalist Dominic Thiem went the distance against Benoit Paire before wrapping up a 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 1-6, 6-3 win just after 2 am.
Williams’ older sister, Venus, is unseeded at a major for the first time in five years and she was a game from a first-round exit before coming all the way back to eliminate 25th-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.
She is a seven-time major champion and a two-time runner-up in Australia but is currently ranked only 36th.
The tournament’s two No. 1 seeds, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, played at night and both won — although in contrasting fashion. Djokovic eliminated Mitchell Krueger of the US 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, while Halep trailed by a set and a break before coming back to beat Kaia Kanepi 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 and avoid becoming the first top-seeded woman in 40 years to lose her opening match at the Australian Open.
Krueger was part of a rough day for American men, who went 1-5 Tuesday; Ryan Harrison had the lone victory.


Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Updated 22 October 2020

Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Arsenal opened its fourth straight Europa League campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Rapid Vienna on Thursday in an opening round of games affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Star striker Pierre­ Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 74th for Arsenal, which won its group in its previous three campaigns in the second-tier European competition.
Roma also came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Young Boys, as did Granada to upset PSV Eindhoven away.
Rangers’ Kemar Roofe scored the goal of the night in a 2-0 victory at Standard Liege, dribbling his way through three opponents inside his own half and then launching a shot from the halfway line that caught the goalkeeper off guard and looped into the net.
Dutch team AZ Alkmaar overcame a slew of coronavirus cases to upset Napoli 1-0.
Tottenham, AC Milan were among teams playing later Thursday.
Arsenal went behind when goalkeeper Bernd Leno played a poor pass that fell to Rapid forward Taxiarchis Fountas, who slotted in a low shot from a tough angle in the 51st minute.
Arteta sent on Aubameyang and Héctor Bellerín in the 61st, and the substitutes helped spark the comeback.
After David Luiz headed in a free kick from Nicolas Pépé to level the score, Mohamed Elneny freed Bellerín down the right to cross for Aubameyang to complete the comeback from close range.
In the other Group B game, Molde also came from behind to win 2-1 at Dundalk.
AZ Alkmaar flew into Naples with 13 players sidelined with coronavirus infections. Napoli, meanwhile, was coming off a 4-1 win over high-scoring Atalanta 4-1 this past weekend. But the Dutch staved off the hosts’ pressure before Dani de Wit scored the winner in the 57th. Real Sociedad won 1-0 at Rijeka the other Group F game.
With Roma resting striker Edin Džeko, Bruno Peres and Marash Kumbulla led the rally with the second-half goals for the Italian side.
Jean ­Pierre Nsame had given Young Boys the lead by converting a penalty kick in the 14th.
It was the first home loss for Young Boys to an Italian opponent in European competitions after beating Udinese, Napoli and Juventus.
Also in Group A, Romania’s Cluj won 2-0 at Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia.
In Group C, Bayer Leverkusen produced the biggest win of the early games by beating Nice 6-2. Nadiem Amiri and Lucas Alario scored early first-half goals five minutes apart for Leverkusen, while substitute Karim Bellarabi netted two and 17-year-old forward Florian Wirtz came off the bench to complete the rout.
In a game between teams from two countries whose domestic leagues have been interrupted due to high levels of coronavirus infections, Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva beat Czech Republic’s Slavia Prague 3-1.
James Tavernier gave Celtic the lead from the penalty spot in the 19th before Roofe added his spectacular second goal in injury time. Benfica won 4-2 at Lech Poznan in the other Group D game.
In Group E, German forward Mario Götze put PSV ahead in first-half injury time before Jorge Molina and Darwin Machis scored for Granada in the second half. Omonoia drew with PAOK 1-1.