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The 2017 Australian Open began in style at Melbourne Park, as fans flocked to the precinct on the first day of the tournament.
In the natural spotlight were world number ones Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, as well as 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer. All had wins in their opening matches; some more challenging than others.
But the player who captured the hearts of the nation was Australia’s brightest teenage prospect, Alex De Minaur.
It took the 17-year-old five sets and almost four hours to defeat Austria’s Gerald Melzer, 5-7, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1. De Minaur says he was surprised with how well he played.
Fresh off his maiden A-T-P tournament appearance in Brisbane, De Minaur was handed a wildcard for this year’s Australian Open.
His success on day one was followed with fellow 17-year-old Australian Jaimee Fourlis’s win over the U-S-A’s Anna Tatishvili.
Australian wildcard Ashleigh Barty added to the Aussies’ success when she won her first match at a major in three-and-a-half years, beating Germany’s Annika Beck.
And the 27th seed Bernard Tomic defeated Brazilian Thomaz Belluci 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in just an hour and a half. Tomic says he was extremely pleased with his performance.
The highest seeded Australian player, Nick Kygrios, dropped only five games in his opener against Portugal’s Gastao Elias, defeating him 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
It’s Kyrgios’s fourth straight year reaching the second round of the Australian Open. Eyes were also firmly on Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava, who, despite an impressive performance, lost in straight sets to Germany’s Mona Barthel 6-3, 7-6.
In the tournament’s first major upset, No. 4 seed Simona Halep lost in straight sets to the USA’s Shelby Rogers, 6-3 6-1.
It’s the second consecutive year the Romanian crashed out in straight sets in the first round of the Australian Open.
Halep says it’s an injury in her left knee which caused her to lose and it’s something she’s had trouble with in earlier tournaments.
Meanwhile world number one Andy Murray was thrown off guard by Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko, who broke the Scotsman’s serve in the first game.
But the world number 93 couldn’t keep up with Murray, who won in straight sets, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2. Murray admits the match wasn’t his best performance, but says he’s hopeful this year will be the first time he’ll get to win the Australian Open.
Defending women’s champion and world number one Angelique Kerber dropped the second set against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, but prevailed in the third to bring it home 6-2 5-7 6-2.
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka was under extreme pressure against Slovakia’s Martin Klizan. Wawrinka, who was the 2014 champion in Melbourne and won the US Open last year, lost the first set 6-4 against Klizan.
The match went to five sets but Wawrinka was able to hold on for three hours and 24 minutes to win 4-6 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4.
And back on centre court after a six-month absence from the game was Swiss champion Roger Federer. The 17-time grand slam champion defeated Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2.
It was the fifth career meeting between the two players, who grew up in juniors together.
Federer, who would become the third man history to win five Australian Open singles titles, says he was conscious of not putting too much emphasis on winning every point.
The day’s other victors were USA’s Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe, Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Croatia’s Martin Cilic, Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych and France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.