Murray wins in straight sets in 1st major match as No. 1
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during his 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko.
In other words, nothing much has changed in his approach.
The five-time finalist, back in Melbourne trying to end his drought, started on Rod Laver Arena on Monday and took the first step in his bid for a first Australian Open title.
Murray has lost four of the last six finals here — including the last two — to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. But he did take something off his long-time friend at the end of last year when he replaced Djokovic in the top ranking during a stunning finish to the season.
In Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's honors list, Murray received a knighthood from the British monarch for reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
Murray said the ranking and the civic honors won't change anything, and he faces "the same pressure, same expectations."
He admits there's one thing he desperately wants to change.
"I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year," he said.
Two players who could potentially stand in his way — No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 10 Tomas Berdych — had first-round wins earlier in the day. Another, Roger Federer, was set to play his first tour-level match in more than six months when he played Jurgen Melzer in a night match on Rod Laver.
There are 18 American women in the draw, and two recorded wins in the first two matches on Rod Laver.
Venus Williams went onto main court right after Shelby Rogers' upset win over fourth-seeded Simona Halep, a result which sent the former French Open finalist out in the first round again.
Williams also lost in the first round last year, and didn't plan to replicate Halep's early exit again.
The seven-time major winner beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, twice recovering breaks in the first set and despite her 48 unforced errors.
"It's never easy playing the first round — you're just trying to find the rhythm," Williams said. "She played amazing. It's very satisfying to get through a match against an opponent who is on fire."
Rogers caused the first upset of the tournament with her 6-3, 6-1 win over Halep.
Rogers made a surprising run to the French Open quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza last year, when she was ranked No. 108, but only advanced to the second round at one other tournament in 2016.
But the run at Roland Garros gave her confidence.
"The biggest thing I took away from that was just that I can compete with the top players in the world and I'm good enough," said Rogers, who was playing just her second main draw match at the Australian Open. "So I have definitely carried that away from the French Open and just been enjoying it a little bit."
Halep, a two-time quarterfinalist in Australia, said she'd been hampered by left knee pain that was compounded by the pressure of the match.
Seventh-seeded Muguruza saved a set point in the first set, needed a medical timeout and had to fend off three break-point chances at 1-4 in the second set before advancing with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Marina Erakovic.
Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig raced through her opening match, beating Patricia Tig 6-0, 6-1, and No. 20 Zhang Shuai, No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu also advanced.
Australian teenager Destanee Aiava's milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to German qualifier Mona Barthel. The 16-year-old Melbourne high school student became the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a major.
In two all-US matches, Samantha Crawford defeated Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and Alison Riske beat Madison Brengle 7-5, 6-3.
Fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe recovered from a break down, and an illness, in the second set to beat No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-1, 7-6 (3).
Two other seeded players lost early women's matches, with Varvara Lepchenko beating No. 19 Kiki Bertens 7-5, 7-6 (5) and former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic beating No. 26 Laura Siegemund 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
On the men's side, Nishikori needed 3 hours, 34 minutes to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2, but Berdych only played a set — which he won 6-1 — before Luca Vanni retired from their match.
No. 19 John Isner beat Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 and advanced along with No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey, who beat Quentin Halys 6-7 (10), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4.