NPL Sports: Roger Federer picked up where he left off at the last Australian Open on a day when Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic ensured there were all kinds of successful comebacks.
Defending champion Federer beating Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a night match, his first on Rod Laver Arena since clinching a career-reviving title here last year. He’s been met on court after wins here previously by tennis greats Laver, John McEnroe and Jim Courier.
On Tuesday night, he got something different. Comedian Will Ferrell stepped out of the crowd and, slipping into character as Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman, conducted the post-match interview.
Six-time champion Djokovic and 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka stuck to business, returning from long injury layoffs with victories in their first matches since Wimbledon.
Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match in Melbourne since a failed doping test in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis.
One of just two former champions in the women’s draw, Sharapova recovered from an early break in the second set and closed out her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tatjana Maria with an ace at Margaret Court Arena.
She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been back here — obviously I wanted to enjoy the moment,” the 2008 Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up said in an on-court TV interview.
Former No. 1-ranked Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open winner, continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Anna-Lena Friedsam to extend her streak to 10 consecutive wins.
Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she’s coming back into the kind of form that won her a title in Sydney last week and makes her a strong contender at Melbourne Park.
“Something is going on with Australia and me,” Kerber said. “I enjoy my stay, play my best tennis.”
Djokovic tweaked his service motion while recovering from an injured right elbow, and used it to good effect in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Donald Young.
Djokovic lost in the second round here last year, but won five of the previous six Australian Open titles.
“Obviously I wanted to start with the right intensity, which I have,” Djokovic said. “I played perfect tennis, like I never stopped.”
Wawrinka, who had six months out after surgery on his left knee, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2).
No. 4-ranked 4-Alexander Zverev and No. 7 David Goffin advanced, but No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut lost to Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist here in 2009, and former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic lost 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to Lukas Lacko.
No. 13 Sam Querrey restored some order for the U.S. men with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez. Two other U.S. contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were out on opening day.
Madison Keys also reversed a trend, becoming the only one of the four American women who contested the U.S. Open semifinals last September to reach the second round in Australia.
Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were all eliminated on Monday.
No. 17-seeded Keys, the runner-up at the U.S. Open, had a 6-1, 7-5 win over Wang Qiang.
No. 9 Johanna Konta beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1 and will meet another American, Bernarda Pera in the second round. The U.S. women had four wins and 14 losses in round one.
No. 1-ranked Simona Halep was in serious trouble twice — having to save set points at 5-2 down in the first set, and badly twisting her left ankle early in the second — before beating 17-year-old Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava 7-6 (5), 6-1.
Halep, who lost back-to-back first-round matches here in the previous two years, will next play Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist who beat Oceane Dodin 6-3, 7-6 (5).
“It’s always really cool to go up against the best in the world,” Bouchard said. “You use it as a measuring stick. I want to try to play my game and go out there and do some damage.”
Other seeded players advancing included Wimbledon champion Garbine Mugurza, No. 6 Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Caroline Garcia, No. 16 Elena Vesnina, and No. 29 Lucie Safarova.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 to Andrea Petkovic.
Sharapova was banned for after testing positive for the drug meldonium here in 2016, when she reached the quarterfinals, and finished last year ranked No. 60.
The five-time major winner wills next play No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova, who beat her at the U.S. Open last year in her return to a Grand Slam to tournament.
After returning in New York, Sharapova is confident she’s prepared again for a major.
“I felt like I have got a lot of things out of the way physically and emotionally and mentally last year with — there was a lot of firsts again for me, playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely,” she said. “But it felt pretty routine today.”