First Day Goes According to Plan
The favorites had their way on Monday in Melbourne, with the 15 seeded players dropping only three sets overall in a sweep. The three matches getting the most attention were those of second-seeded Maria Sharapova, local favorite Samantha Stosur and the indomitable Venus Williams. Sharapova withdrew from her pre-Aussie tuneup in Sydney with a collarbone injury, while Stosur got dumped in the first round of the same tournament a year after getting bounced in Melbourne in the opening match. Williams was playing her first match in 2013 after a somewhat resurgent ’12, when she won a singles title in Luxembourg and doubles trophies with sister Serena at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Si.com’s Jon Wertheim relays Sharapova’s graceful response to questions about her 47-minute 6-0 6-0 demolition of overmatched Olga Puchkova in his regular mailbag:
“I don’t think that’s very relative to anything,” she said. “You know, when you’re out there and playing, you’re just focusing on every point and every game and trying to win as many as you can, and today was just a good scoreline.”
The Australian papers collectively exhaled when the 9th-seeded Stosur survived her match against Chang Kai-Chen 7-6 6-3—setting up a second-round match against Zheng Jie, the woman who eliminated her in the first round in Sydney last week. She did it after a therapeutic pre-tournament hitting session with Australian hero Pat Cash, who gave her some advice about handling hometown pressure. Linda Pearce of the Sydney Morning Herald reports on how Stosur’s coach David Taylor handled the extra hand:
”It was just a couple of random hits, no press. He came on his own, two racquets, wanted to have a hit, but it’s not as though he’s coaching Sam Stosur now or whatever. He just wanted to help out, and that’s why I really appreciated it, because he didn’t want anything from it himself, he just actually took a lot of time to sit down and talk about playing under pressure at the Australian Open, coming back to Australia when he’d won the US Open, just really great things that I probably can’t offer Sam and someone like Pat can.”
The Morning Herald’s Emma Quayle reminisced with Williams about her first visit to Melbourne as a 14-year-old, and the now-32 American joked about her post-career worst-case scenario:
”I felt like I had a great year,” Williams said. ”I moved up a lot of spots. I qualified for the Olympics. I won a doubles major and Olympic gold. Gold, gold, gold baby.” That medal, won with sister Serena, is hidden ”in a sack” these days, so that should Venus ”become a statistic and lose all my money” she can melt the gold off the top and get by. ”When you’re a young person you just don’t think it’s ever going to end,” she said. ”Now … I try and take the best I can of it. When it’s over I will be out, and hopefully I won’t run out of money and have to commentate.”