With temperatures soaring in Melbourne and nervous expectations distracting players from what should have been a normal day at the office, results revealed a harsh reality: the first round of the first slam can be tough. But no one said it was going to be easy.
Gone from women’s top half of the draw were perennial favorites Caroline Wozniacki (No. 16 seed), Sara Errani (No. 17), Andrea Petkovic (No. 22), Australia’s hope Samantha Stosur (No. 25), American Sloane Stephens (No. 24), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No. 26), and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (No. 27). That’s seven of 16 seeds in Serena Williams’ section.
The men’s top half faired better, with only one seeded player failing to advance to the second round: Benoit Paire (No. 17). The Frenchman was defeated by American Wildcard Noah Rubin: 7-6(4), 7-6(6), 7-6(5). It was the 19-year-old’s first victory at a major, having lost in the first round of The U. S. Open in 2014. He’s ranked 328 in the world.
The Frenchman, known for flairs of temper and a swashbuckling style, didn’t mince words with the press, “It was a catastrophe,” Fox News reported. He lost with a sour-grapes comment, “Yes, he’s not a very good player.”
Rubin first appeared on the radar after winning the Boys Singles title at Wimbledon in 2014.
And, as expected from any teenager, Rubin texted his girlfriend and family before leaving court Monday. “My girlfriend’s sending me pictures. I’m trending on Twitter. I mean, that’s cool stuff.”
Rubin’s next opponent is another Frenchman, Qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert. He may not have the singles’ ranking of Paire, but won three rounds of qualifications and soared in doubles last year alongside Nicolas Mahut. The team won The U. S. Open, upsetting favorites Jamie Murray and John Peers. They also earned a prized invitation to the Barclay’s World Tour Finals, having finished in the top eight for the year.
Another American, Qualifier Taylor Fritz, will have his hands full Tuesday when he meets compatriot Jack Sock, the 25th seed. But the 18-year-old Fritz already knows how to beat back stiff competition in a pressure match.
He was all but through to his first slam main draw on Sunday, when he held two match points against German lefty Misha Zverev in the second set tiebreak. But the more-seasoned Zverev didn’t fold. He took the set and raced to a 4-0 lead in the third. Fritz, though, surged with abandon. He reeled off six games and clinched the win.
“It feels great, what an amazing way to do it,” Fritz said, laughing, the Australian Open reported. “I was playing solid and then so many times I was asking myself: ‘What do I do?’ I got on top and go a lot of momentum. [I was] getting really pumped and was able to finish it.”
Two other American qualifiers — Tim Smyczek and Ryan Harrison — advanced to the first round of the main draw, as well. They play Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain and Russian Andrey Kuznetsov respectively Tuesday.