Five Thoughts From Day One of the 2020 Australian Open

Defending champ Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Roger Federer all rolled through to the second round, as rain impacted the opening day of the first Slam of the year.
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• Fortunately, the meteorological concern on Day One: rain, and not air quality. After so much discussion, quite rightly, about this event and its ability to handle unsafe conditions wrought by the bushfires ravaging so much of the country, conditions today were merely damp, not dangerous. Some 32 first round matches were cancelled or moved on Monday due to rain delays. Mother Nature is a fickle character. Who knows what she has in mind for the next 13 days—which way she’ll blow her winds, whether the atmosphere will have the equivalent of a fever? But for all the talk about delaying—or even cancelling— this event, air quality was, happily, a non-issue today.

• Serena Williams is 38 years old, ranked No. 8 and hasn’t won a major in three years. And you would never know any of it watching her today. Armed with butane torches off both wings, she didn’t so much beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-3 as she performed a public humiliation. This marked Serena’s 350 match win at a major—only Federer has more—and she looked very much like a player capable of winning six more. Serena’s troubles of late, of course, have come in the trophy-adjacent rounds, not in the early rounds. But what a way to kick off her campaign.


• From one 38-year-old parent to another….Federer followed Serena on court and, in scarcely the time it takes to read this column, rolled over Stevie Johnson, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, in 81 minutes. One match is not a data set. But his much-scrutinized decision to change up his schedule and play no tune-up events before this tournament? Sure seemed wise today. Federer is on the Djokovic half of the draw. But, man, look at the Federer quadrant—note: Denis Shapovalov fell quietly—and it bodes well.

• Coco Gauff continues to summon her future. A lot has happened since she beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon, marking her breakthrough. Coco won titles in both doubles and singles. She acquitted herself well amid the hype of the U.S. Open. She negotiated her ascending stardom. Today, in an unlikely rematch with Venus, she was again equal to the task, winning 7-6, 6-3, with a mix of aggression and nuance. A moment, though, to applaud Venus Williams. There’s something so poignant about watching an athlete, crowding age 39, who still finds such joy and fulfillment in the simple act of competing.

• Naomi Osaka began her title defense with a businesslike win over Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic. Since failing to defend her title at the U.S. Open—falling to Belinda Bencic, hardly a bad loss—Osaka has won 15 of 16 matches. (And in the one defeat, she had match point before falling to Karolina Pliskova.) How does she feel as defending champion? “Yeah, I mean, for me it's really odd here. I just feel really happy. I think, I don't know, I don't really have this mentality of, I'm, like, defending now. It's really weird.” Circle that potential quarterfinal against S. Williams.