Australian Open Day 1 matches to watch: Serena, Djokovic in action
No. 1s kick off their title defenses on Rod Laver
Melbourne Park’s main court has a stacked lineup on Day 1, beginning with an intriguing match between Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum and No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova. Monday’s match will only be the second career meeting between the two players, but neither should forget their first clash: In the first round of the Australian Open in 2014, then No. 88-ranked Kumkhum upset No. 6-seed Kvitova 6–2, 1–6, 6–4.
Serena Williams will begin her campaign vs. feisty Italian Camila Giorgi (second match, Rod Laver) and No. 1 Novak Djokovic will follow, taking on 18-year-old Hyeon Chung. Roger Federer will kick off the night session vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili and Aussie Sam Stosur (vs. Kristyna Pliskova) gets the second evening slot on Rod Laver.
Sharapova starts her 2016 season on Margaret Court
After withdrawing from Brisbane last week with a forearm injury, No. 5 seed Maria Sharapova will play her first match of the season in Melbourne under lights on Margaret Court Arena against Japan’s Nao Hibino. Despite not playing any lead-up tournaments, Sharapova says she remains confident.
“I've always been someone that's been able to treat their practice as something meaningful, there's something on the line, you're not just going through the motions,” she said on Saturday in Melbourne. “That's one of the reasons I believe in myself knowing, okay, I may not have played five matches in Brisbane, but if I commit myself, train well, get some practice sets in, I know with that mindset I'll be able to take it that, yes, I might be rusty, make a few more unforced errors than I would like, but I'm ready to go.”
Aussie Daria Gavrilova will start the day session on Margaret Court against Lucie Hradecka, followed by No. 6-seed Tomas Berdych (vs. Yuki Bhambri, second match) and No. 4-seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who is coming off a title at the Shenzhen Open, will play American Christina McHale.
Kyrgios takes center stage on Hisense
The Nick Kyrgios show will begin promptly at 7 p.m. in Melbourne on Monday. The 29th-seeded Aussie will open up against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta and if he can focus, Kyrgios has an opportunity to make a run with a good draw ahead of him at his home Slam. You won’t want to miss Philipp Kohlschreiber take on No. 7-seed Kei Nishikori (first match, Hisense) and after a title in Auckland last week, No. 24-seed Sloane Stephens looks to continue her form against qualifier Qiang Wang (second match, Hisense).
More matches to watch
Eugenie Bouchard vs. Aleksandra Krunic (Show Court 2, not before 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday): Bouchard will need to bounce back quickly after making a run to the final in Hobart on Saturday, where she lost to Alize Cornet 6–1, 6–2. Despite the loss, the result was Bouchard’s best after missing a several tournaments due to a concussion she sustained in the locker room at last year’s U.S. Open. Monday’s match will be the first meeting between Bouchard and Krunic.
Noah Rubin vs. Benoit Paire (first match, Court 6, 7 p.m. ET Sunday): Former Wake Forest player Noah Rubin will make his Australian Open debut on Monday in Melbourne after earning spot in the main draw from the USTA with a title at the Charlottesville Challenger in November. Hear Rubin talk about his transition to the pros and training ahead of the Australian Open here.
Belinda Bencic vs. Alison Riske (third match, Court 7): The Swiss teen has climbed in the rankings to No. 14 but has had mixed results to start the year. In Brisbane she lost to American qualifier Samantha Crawford and then made a run to the Sydney semifinals, but retired in the second set down 6–0 to Monica Puig with a gastrointestinal illness. Riske will be a good test for 12th-seeded Bencic, who lost to Julia Goerges in the first round last year.
Tamira Paszek vs. Roberta Vinci (third match, Court 13): Austrian qualifier Paszek has had an impressive start to her 2016 season, playing through qualifying (beating Monica Puig and Kurumi Nara) and notching wins over Francesca Schiavone, fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kirsten Flipkens before losing in the semifinals to Julia Goerges at the ASB Classic in Auckland. No. 13-seed Vinci lost to Stosur in Sydney last week. The winner will face either Irina Falconi or Anna Tatishvili in the second round.
Paolo Lorenzi vs. Grigor Dimitrov (Show Court 3, not before midnight E.T.): Dimitrov is coming off a thrilling match in the Sydney final on Saturday against Viktor Troicki, where both men had championship points before defending champ Troicki took the third set tiebreaker to win 2–6, 6–1, 7–6 (7). Dimitrov will have to make a quick turnaround in his first career matchup against Italy’s Lorenzi.