Tuesday January 17th, 2012

Sam Stosur continued her disappointing run on Australian courts with a first-round loss to Sorana Cirstea. (John Donegan/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian Open's first round is now complete. No. 6 Samantha Stosur's early exit is the biggest upset of the young tournament, while the men's top seeds are all through to the second round. Here's a look at what went down on Day 2.

What happened

Home-court disadvantage: Stosur is a magnet for two things when she plays at home in Australia: bad luck and bad form. Enter Sorana Cirstea. The 21-year-old Romanian came out gunning for the lines and played her best match in years to knock out the U.S. Open champion 7-6 (2), 6-3. Cirstea blasted 28 winners to Stosur's 12, and was also much more aggressive in charging the net. Stosur, meanwhile, sat back at the baseline, attempted to come to net only five times and hit 33 unforced errors. Not a recipe for success.

Stosur's loss makes it four straight women's Grand Slam champions who crashed out before the third round of their next major. And it means that once again, Stosur will have to play on with the tag of a player who simply can't perform in front of her home crowd.

"That's sport," a very disappointed Stosur said after the match. "Unfortunately, you can't pick and choose when it's all going to happen for you."

On course: The 2011 Wimbledon champions needed only two and half hours combined to win their matches. Petra Kvitova put to rest any concerns that she might wilt in the heat, bashing Vera Dushevina 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes. On the men's side, Novak Djokovic sent Paolo Lorenzi packing with a 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 win in an hour and 32 minutes.

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova quieted the chatter that she might not be fully fit for the tournament, getting brutal revenge on Gisela Dulko, winning 6-1, 6-1 in 58 minutes. Dulko, remember, upset Sharapova the last time they met, at Wimbledon in 2009. Sharapova gets 22-year-old American Jamie Hampton in the second round.

"I couldn't wait to start," said Sharapova, who has been dealing with an ankle injury.  "It feels like forever since I've been playing a match where I feel pretty good physically.  It's just nice to go into a match you know that you're going to compete again at such a high level in front of so many people, especially a place where I've won before."

Americans strong: Ryan Harrison more than held his own against Andy Murray, putting in a scintillating performance to win his first set over one of the top four players. With everyone wondering whether Harrison could hold his form after taking the first set, a relatively (some might say creepily, even) calm and collected Murray adjusted to the court conditions and got back into the match.

The two exchanged some grueling rallies, with Harrison giving Murray a taste of his own medicine -- playing with patience and variety and winning some tough points. Murray eventually took over the match and prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. It was still a good day for the 19-year-old Harrison, who showed again that he can hang with the big boys even if he's still very much a work in progress.

"It's about producing and coming through at the right moments," Harrison said. "It's about consistently keep putting myself in these positions, keep working hard, get to a point where I trust myself to come through."

In general, it was a good day for the Americans. Serena Williams looked stable on her ankle in a 6-3, 6-2 win over Tamira Paszek. Ryan Sweeting moved past Matthias Bachinger in straight sets. Jamie Hampton dropped only two games in her dismissal of Mandy Minella. Vania King found momentum in winning a first-set tiebreaker and beat Kateryna Bondarenko in straight sets. Sloane Stephens, steady and consistent on serve, looked great in her win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa.

No such luck for Madison Keys, Alison Riske and Jesse Levine, though. Riske pushed Urszula Radwanska to three sets and Levine recovered from a first-set bagel against Marcel Granollers to get to a fifth set, but both fell short in the end.

The bakery is open: Temperatures crept up Tuesday, making it the hottest day the players have experienced since they've been in Australia. Murray described this as "a shock to the system," and with the hot wind constantly swirling in your face, it felt like you were sitting in a slow-roasting oven.

The heat likely explains, at least in part, the amount of metaphorical baking around the grounds. Twenty bagel sets were dished out on Day 2 and the tournament doctor, who looks an awful lot like Gene Shalit, was summoned all over the grounds for heat-related illnesses.

But not everyone collapsed in the heat. How about a standing ovation for Mikhail Youzhny and Andrey Golubev, who were on court for almost five hours before Golubev finally won 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Lost in translation: Tennis is an international sport and English-speaking inquisitors need to think about how to phrase their questions when talking to non-native English speakers. Avoiding colloquialisms, idioms and slang is a must. Otherwise, this happens:

Q. Did you find it hard to shake her in some of those close ones?

PETRA KVITOVA: No, I didn't feel any shakers.

No shakers. Got it. Next question.

Photo of the day

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dives for a shot in his victory over Denis Istomin. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Go figure

2... Players who came in with a shot at the WTA No. 1 ranking who are already out of the running. Kvitova's win eliminated Agnieszka Radwanksa's chances, and Stosur's loss ended hers.

2... Japanese players (Kei Nishikori and Tatsuma Ito) who won their first-round match, the most from the nation in a Grand Slam event since the 1972 Australian Open, according to the ATP's Greg Sharko.

8... Years since Roger Federer has not played a match on Rod Laver Arena. He's scheduled for Hisense on Wednesday.

Video of the day

Djokovic brings us Tuesday's installment of "Unnecessary Tweeners."


Bits and bobbles

• Mats Wilander fell in his Melbourne apartment last night and suffered a lacerated kidney. He's in the hospital recuperating. Speedy recovery, Mats.

• Some players will always have my sympathy (for a variety of reasons). It was nice to see two of them notch much-needed wins. Nicolas Mahut beat 29th seed Radek Stepanek 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 and Jelena Dokic defeated Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-1. Unfortunately, it looked like Chakvetadze was struggling in the heat. She's another one who deserves a break.

• Go into your bathroom, close the door, run a hot shower for 20 minutes, plug in your hairdryer turn it on high and blow it in your face. Now imagine playing three hours of tennis in that type of heat under a searing Australian sun. Nobody can call these players wusses for complaining about the conditions.

• Having spent the week watching the qualifying tournament, and now through the first round of the main draw, you have to feel for the players who trekked all the way to Melbourne from Europe and the Americas only to play one disappointing match. Take Alexandra Cadantu, for example. The Romanian, ranked No. 109, flew all the way down to Australia and lost her first match 6-0, 6-1 in 42 minutes. Ouch.

• Day 1 it was the Chinese Taipei fans who brought a smile to my face as they heartily cheered on their countrymen on a tiny outer court. On Tuesday, it was the Estonians hooting and hollering for Kaia Kanepi on Court 13.

They said it

"I guess the U.S. Open final, the way I played and everything, is the absolute pinnacle of where you want to get to. Now I know that is possible. You know that's up there and achievable. You want to keep pushing for that. Sometimes it's unrealistic to think you are going to play that well every single time. That's kind of hard to deal with as well. You know it's there, but why doesn't it happen over and over and over again?

"I don't know if you could say that you want it too much or you're trying too hard or anything like that. But I know that I want it to happen. I don't think it was from lack of trying that it didn't."

-- Sam Stosur, on trying, and ultimately failing, to replicate her U.S. Open form in Melbourne.

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