Australian Open 2017 Day 1 matches to watch: Kerber, Murray kick off play
Here are the matches to watch on Day 1 of the 2017 Australian Open. Play begins on all courts on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Click here for the full order of play, and see the full TV schedule here.
New No. 1s start first major as top seeds
The top half of the men’s and women’s singles draw will kick off play at the 2017 Australian Open on Monday, and that means the new World No. 1 players, Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray, will each make their first appearance in a major as the top seed. Defending champ Kerber, who is coming off a second-round loss to Daria Kasatkina in Sydney last week, faces a tough opening-match opponent in World No. 61 Lesia Tsurenko (7 p.m. local, 3 a.m. ET, Rod Laver Arena). On the men’s side, Murray’s quest to win his first Australian Open starts against Illya Marchenko in the first round, who he beat in their only career meeting in Melbourne in 2011 (last day match, Rod Laver Arena).
Roger Federer makes his return on Rod Laver Arena
Seeded No. 17, Federer returns to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open for the first time since Wimbledon last year, where he lost in the semifinals to Milos Raonic. Time away due to a knee injury causes his drop in rankings and his lowest seeding at a major in more than a decade. After playing a warm-up at Hopman cup, Federer—a four-time champ in Melbourne—opens against qualifier Jurgen Melzer (second night match, Rod Laver Arena).
“I felt great. I felt Hopman Cup was great preparation,” he said on Saturday in Melbourne. “Then practice was more about just managing, maintaining, not overtraining, but nevertheless still play enough to get used to the conditions here again, even though it's the same. You know how it is, you just have to put down the hours, play the sets. I did that.”
Federer said it feels great to return to the Grand Slam atmosphere. Even though he’s seeded the lowest he’s ever been in Melbourne, he will face qualifiers in the two opening rounds, before a potential third round match-up against Tomas Berdych.
“I prefer to be the favorite. Underdog is okay,” Federer said. “As long as I'm healthy and I feel like I can go four, five sets, I can go many matches in a row, then I think it's going to be fun. If I feel like I'm in pain in the matches, then obviously it's no fun.
“It's a great draw because I'm in the draw. So for me I'm super pleased that I made it here, that I have an opportunity to win matches. How many rests to be seen. I'm cautious myself. So, yeah, clearly an underdog this time around.”
Nick Kyrgios gets center stage on Hisense Arena
Aussie and No. 14-seed Nick Kyrgios will open up his fourth Australian Open against Portugal’s World No. 81 Gastao Elias (not before 6:30 p.m. local, 2:30 a.m. ET, Hisense Arena). A quarterfinalist in 2015, Kyrgios could face Sam Groth in the third round before a possible showdown against reigning U.S. Open champ Stan Wawrinka.
No. 4-seed Wawrinka will open his Australian Open campaign against Martin Klizan (7 p.m. local, 3 a.m. ET, Margaret Court Arena). A champ in Melbourne in 2014 and the reigning U.S. Open winner, Wawrinka is the only man in the past seven years to conquer Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park, and the Serb is awaits as a potential match-up in the Round of 16. Before then, Wawrinka must get through Klizan and then plays the winner of Frederico Delbonis vs. U.S.’s Steve Johnson.
“I'm happy to be back, like every player probably. I think I'm work well in the off-season,” Wawrinka said. “Started well in Brisbane. I think my level is there. I'm ready to start the tournament.”
More matches to watch:
Garbine Mugurza vs. Marina Erakovic
No. 7-seed Muguruza will kick off play on Margaret Court Arena on Monday against 28-year-old Erakovic, the same opponent she played in the first round of the Australian Open in 2015 in their only career meeting. Last week, Muguruza retired from Bisbane with a right thigh injury but later cited fatigue as another reason for her dropped level of play.
“When I stop Brisbane, I just rest actually for a lot of days. Like rest, did nothing, no tennis, no fitness,” Muguruza said on Saturday in Melbourne. “I just trying to recover with my physio until I arrived here, and I started playing again. You know, just refreshing my body from those difficult matches to try to be here 100%.”
Samantha Crawford vs. Lauren Davis
Last year, Crawford was a big storyline heading into the Australian Open after coming off a huge run in Brisbane, playing through qualies and notching wins over Belinda Bencic and Andrea Petkovic before losing to Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. The 21-year-old lost in the opening round last year, but this battle of the young Americans could be fun to watch.
Marin Cilic vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Does Marin “The Conundrum” Cilic still exist in 2017? Since winning the U.S. Open in 2014, Cilic's results have been puzzling and all over the board, especially at the majors. He was a semifinalist in 2010, but has struggled to make it past the third round in recent years. Seeded No. 7, will he be one of the first to make an early exit?
Monica Puig vs. Patricia Maria Tig
After winning Puerto Rico’s first-ever gold medal at the Rio Olympics in August, there was a lot of pressure on Puig heading into the U.S. Open. And it showed. The 23-year-old crashed out of the tournament in the opening round. She lost to Elina Svitolina in Brisbane at the beginning of the year, but the first major of the new year should provide Puig with a fresh start on the grand stage. It will be interesting to see how she responds.
Venus Williams vs. Kateryna Kozlova
Playing in her 17th Australian Open, 36-year-old Venus Williams returns to Melbourne this year as the 13th seed, following an early first-round exit from the tournament last year at the hands of Johanna Konta. Venus opens against 22-year-old Kateryna Kozlova (second match, Rod Laver Arena).