In the ongoing Australian Open, Simona Halep won her first match for five months on Tuesday 15 January.
Halep, who was the runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in this tournament 12 months ago, suffered one of the biggest upsets of 2018 when she was beaten by Kaia Kanepi in the first round of last year’s US Open and might have feared the worst when she was drawn to face the Estonian again in the opening round here.
Kanepi, whose big-hitting game can trouble the very best and led Halep by a set and a break before the 27-year-old Romanian turned the match around to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. Halep struck the ball with increasing confidence as the match progressed to earn a second-round meeting in the Australian Open with Sofia Kenin of the United States.
“I knew what I had to do against Kaia,” Halep said afterwards. “I know that she’s a very tough opponent. I had to be strong in my legs and believe that I could win the match.”
Halep said the win would give her confidence going into her meeting with Kenin. “The next round will definitely be tough again but I have to look forward to going back out on court and trying my best,” she said.
was another player to make a winning return to competitive tennis after a long absence. The 37-year-old American, playing her first tournament match since her controversial run-in with the umpire in last year’s US Open final, made an impressive return, beating Germany’s Tatjana Maria, who is one of her Florida neighbours, 6-0 6-2 in just 49 minutes. Despite the stifling heat, Williams warmed up in what would have been best described as a black raincoat, which she then discarded to reveal a figure-hugging green one-piece outfit. Asked whether it was a “onesie” or a leotard, Williams said it was a “Serena-tard”. She thought it was “an incredibly strong, powerful statement for mums who are trying to get back and get fit.”
Serena Williams, who was in the early stages of pregnancy when she last competed here in 2017, played in fishnet compression stockings, which she wears because of continuing fears about blood clots. “I have had some issues, and they’re not done,” Williams said. “It’s just something I just have to do for pretty much probably the rest of my career.”
In the second round of the Australian Open, Williams will face Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard , who beat Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-1. Bouchard, who was Wimbledon runner-up five years ago, has struggled in recent years and hailed Williams as “the greatest ever” but added: “I don’t want to talk about it too much and put her on too much of a pedestal because I have to play her in two days, but I love her.”
Naomi Osaka, who beat Williams in last year’s US Open final, eased into the second round with a comfortable 6-4, 6-2 victory over Poland’s Magda Linette.
Venus Williams, who is unseeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in five years, has often struggled in the Australian Open and was one game away from her fourth first-round exit in her last six appearances in Melbourne when she faced Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu, the No 25 seed. However, the 38-year-old American recovered to win 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.
Victoria Azarenka, twice a champion in the Australian Open but making her first appearance at the tournament for three years, was beaten 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 by Germany’s Laura Siegemund.