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Five things we learned on Day 1

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Looking back on Day 1 of AO 2018

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1. Not-so-great day for the Americans
It was a case of ‘America and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day 1’ at Australian Open 2018. Last year’s finalist Venus Williams and semi-finalist CoCo Vandeweghe, reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens and No.8 seed Jack Sock all crashed out with the sun still high in the Melbourne sky. John Isner, CiCi Bellis, Jennifer Brady, Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske, Taylor Townsend, Irina Falconi and Kevin King – all gone, the dispatched dozen having mustered just six sets between them. 

All told, the US contingent went 3-12 on day 1, with Nicole Gibbs, Ryan Harrison and Mackenzie McDonald keeping their AO campaigns alive in contrasting fashions. Gibbs, the sole American to advance in the bottom half of the women’s draw, eased to a 6-1 6-1 win over lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova, while McDonald fended off a third-set fightback from fellow qualifier Elias Ymer to advance 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-1. But Harrison had the battle of the day for those toting stars and stripes, breaking Dudi Sela to stay alive in the fourth set of a testy showdown before closing out a 6-3 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-2 win.

Still, there's still plenty of US interest in the AO singles draws: another 14 American players are in action on Day 2.

2. Fifteen?! A lot of love for Kostyuk
Seriously, what were you doing at the age of 15? If your name is Marta Kostyuk, you’re extending your unbeaten run at the Australian Open to 10 matches – six en route to the Australian Open 2017 junior title, three to come through this year’s qualifying draw and now her first tour-level victory – becoming the youngest winner of a main-draw match at Melbourne Park since Martina Hingis in 1996. 

The Ukrainian, the youngest player in this year’s AO draw by a distance, downed No.25 Shuai Peng 6-2 6-2 to set up a second-round showdown with Aussie wildcard Olivia Rogowska – and this is how she celebrated. I think it’s time we all took a moment to re-evaluate our life choices… #BeMoreMarta

3. Always braced for battle, Francesca…
Fashion trends cause almost as much of a buzz as the tennis on the first day of a major. There was plenty of pink on show from the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Rafael Nadal – more on him later – and Grigor Dimitrov, while Monica Puig’s rainbow stripes and Matt Ebden’s cyan fade were among our personal favourites. 

Francesca Schiavone, Women's Singles, Australian Open
Braced but unbowed, Francesca Schiavone

But by far the strangest was the sight of Francesca Schiavone sporting a sizeable back brace on the outside of her outfit in the first match of the tournament on Rod Laver Arena. The Italian, also sporting an ankle strap, fought gamely in the battle of the French Open champions, but fell 6-1 6-4 to Jelena Ostapenko.

4. Retro Rafa can’t keep pace with razor-sharp Kyrgios
Staying on the fashion theme, there was something truly vintage about watching Rafael Nadal bomb on to a 6-1 6-1 6-1 victory over Victor Estrella Burgos – and not just because of the dominant return to RLA. For the first time since 2008 – yep, best part of a decade – the world No.1 toted a sleeveless top at a Grand Slam tournament. He had been set to revive the gun-show garms at the 2014 US Open, only to pull out with a wrist injury.

But even a straight-sets victory for the loss of just three games was not quick enough to register the quickest men’s win of the day. That honour went to Kyrgios, who dispatched Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-1 6-2 6-4 in 97 minutes – seven minutes faster than Rafa’s finish time, and 11 quicker than Grigor Dimitrov, whose 6-3 6-2 6-1 victory over Dennis Novak took one hour, 38 minutes.

5. Five for fighting as Schwartzman and Ruud set second-round date
At the other end of the spectrum, there were 10 five-setters among the 32 men’s matches on day 1 of Australian Open 2018 – none of which involved Ivo Karlovic, who advanced in straight sets over Laslo Djere 7-6(3) 6-3 7-6(2). Kyle Edmund’s win over No.11 seed Kevin Anderson last a minute shy of four hours, nine gruelling minutes longer than Andrey Rublev’s emotional win over David Ferrer and 14 beyond No.28 seed Damir Dzumhur’s victory over Paolo Lorenzi, who held a two-set lead before falling 3-6 2-6 7-6(5) 6-2 6-4.

Another to fall just 60 seconds short of four hours was Diego Schwartzman’s victory over Dusan Lajovic, the Argentine claiming his first meaningful lead to close out an extra-innings win 2-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 11-9. But one match did break the four-hour barrier – and it came in the second all-qualifier showdown of the day between Frenchman Quentin Halys and young Norwegian Casper Ruud, who prevailed 3-6 6-3 7-6(5) 5-7 11-9 for his first Grand Slam match win in 256 lung-busting minutes.

The kicker? Schwartzman and Ruud will face off for a place in the third round on Wednesday. Off to the ice baths, both of you…

Five hot shots from Day 1

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