AO 2024 – Day 2: Garcia soars to deny Osaka

It was another action-packed day at Melbourne Park with mixed fortunes for seeded stars.

Caroline Garcia Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The Australian Open served up another sensational series of matches on Monday.

Former champions and favourites continued to join the first-round party, which included plenty of marathon duels. Here are the key headlines from Down Under…

Garcia glistens on the main stage

Naomi Osaka's comeback just six months after giving birth to her daughter was one of the talking points in Melbourne.

The two-time champion had toppled Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-3 en route to her second Australian Open title in 2021, however, the world No.19 thrived as the front runner on Rod Laver Arena.

Garcia's pin-point serving masterclass yielded 13 aces to boost a 6-4, 7-6(2) triumph.

"I felt a bit unlucky to be honest," said Garcia, admitting her initial reaction to the draw. "There were so many players coming back, so you had the chance to play someone tough and even sometimes when you play someone lower ranked, it's never easy to start a slam.

"I play tennis for this kind of match. It was my first time in slam playing second (night) match after seven. After so many years on tour, I was pretty excited for it. It will be a memory that I will remember in many years. I wanted to have fun and experience it at the maximum."

Osaka competed valiantly, despite just two matches at the Brisbane International earlier this month, the four-time Grand Slam champion pushed the No.16 right to the end.

"I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player," added Garcia. "We all know she had an amazing career, she's been through a lot, but I'm just very glad to see her back and I hope she can enjoy tennis now. I mean six months after giving birth she's playing quite amazing already. So we have to watch out."

Garcia, whose finest Australian Open showing to date is a pair of fourth rounds in 2018 and 2023, will hope to replicate her clinical performance next up against Magdalena Frech.

Daniil Medvedev Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Big names bring big time tennis

2021 and 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev defied the heat and qualifier Terence Atmane, before the Frenchman was forced to retire with cramping at 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 1-0.

Last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas also bounced back from a set down to take out lucky loser Zizou Bergs to book a second-round encounter with Australian Jordan Thompson.

No.16 seed Ben Shelton, a quarter-finalist last January, kick-started his campaign by dominating Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 7-6(2), 7-5. 

No.6 seed Ons Jabeur was on song to surrender just four games to qualifier Yuliia Starodubtseva, whilst Brazil's No.10 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia fended off Czech prodigy Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. 

US Open champion Coco Gauff blazed past Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-3, 6-0, benefitting from serve tweaking with a certain Andy Roddick.

Coco Gauff Australian Open 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"Yeah, it was really cool. He's a really chill guy," revealed Gauff, taking the former world No.1 up on the offer of help.

"I went to Charlotte (USA) for two days. He's probably one of the best servers in history, and especially on the American side. I don't think I could have gotten anybody else better to kind of help me with that.

"I think it was more of a mental switch. Just a slight change that we did, just helping me with the toss, being more consistent. I think I just need to continue to trust it and trust all the work that I did in the offseason."

Seeds fall at first hurdle

There was a collection of top women ousted from contention on Monday.

Qualifier Dayana Yastremska brushed aside Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-2, as well as Swiss Viktorija Golubic posting a 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-1 triumph facing No.15 seed Veronika Kudermetova.

In a battle of two in-form players, Germany's United Cup hero Laura Siegemund inched to a 7-6[11-9] deciding tie-break victory over No.17 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Roland-Garros 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlychenkova held all the answers for a 6-4, 6-4 scoreboard with No.21 seed Donna Vekic and heads onto a second-round encounter with Paula Badosa.

In further seeded shocks, world No.45 Arantxa Rus was brutally efficient, losing just one game to storm past No.24 seed Anhelina Kalinina. Roland-Garros 2021 girls' winner Linda Noskova continued to portray promise in a 6-1, 7-5 scoreline facing No.31 seed Marie Bouzkova.

Melbourne with a French flavour

On top of Garcia's Rod Laver Arena heroics, men's French No.1 Adrian Mannarino reeled in 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 and teenager Luca Van Assche went the distance too to bring down local wild card James Duckworth. 

Hugo Grenier claimed the honours in an all-french battle to snatch away 10-7 in the fifth set tie-break over Alexandre Muller.

It was a happy day for the Monfils crew. Elina Svitolina enjoyed a straight sets passage into the second round versus Taylah Preston and in similar fashion, husband Gael Monfils overcame Yannick Hanfmann 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. 

World No.20 Ugo Humbert impressed in a four sets tussle with Belgian talisman David Goffin and Ugo Gaston flourished as a lucky loser to beat Roberto Carballes Baena in four sets too.

Around the grounds

Felix Auger-Aliassime became embroiled in a bruising post-midnight battle with 2020 finalist Dominic Thiem, eventually escaping 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(5), 5-7, 6-3 after four hours and 59 minutes. 

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz flew through in three sets past Omar Jasika and No.15 seed Karen Khachanov required four sets to deny Daniel Altmaier. 

No.25 seed Lorenzo Musetti managed to outgun Benjamin Bonzi over four sets and his Italian countryman Flavio Cobolli dismissed No.18 seed Nicolas Jarry in another five-set rollercoaster. 

2023 quarter-finalist Sebastian Korda evaded trouble in a five-set clash with qualifier Vit Kopriva and No.30 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry dominated five-time finalist Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. 

For the green and gold, Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur was leading Milos Raonic 6-7(6), 6-3, 2-0, before the Canadian was forced to retire. Fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin defied compatriot Marc Polmans in straight sets to earn a second round showstopper with world No.1 and 10-time champion Novak Djokovic.