World number two Simona Halep extended her winning streak to 13 matches as she reached the final to delight the fans in attendance at the Internazionali d'Italia. 

Spectators were allowed at a WTA Tour event for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic suspended competitions, the Rome crowd witnessing Halep defeat Garbine Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 in two hours and 14 minutes. 

Muguruza was the last woman to beat Halep, in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, but she was unable to produce a repeat in Italy, where the Romanian will be hoping to add to the recent titles she won in Abu Dhabi and Prague either side of the break. 

Halep, a two-time runner-up at this tournament, was 5-1 up in the third set but was pegged back to 5-4, only for Muguruza to produce back-to-back double faults that handed her opponent the victory.

"The victory is really important against Muguruza, always," Halep said afterwards.

"She's a very, very difficult player and a good player. It's always a good vibe and feeling when I win against her.

"I feel confident now that I was able to win this match."

Next up for Halep is Karolina Pliskova after the defending champion overcame Marketa Vondrousova 6-2 6-4.

Pliskova raced into a one-set lead against her fellow Czech, who was the runner-up at Roland Garros last year, but dropped her serve at the start of the second.

Vondrousova was unable to consolidate and paid the price for failing to stay in the rallies with the former world number one in the closing stages of a match that lasted one hour and 22 minutes. 

US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka lost a three-set thriller to Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali d'Italia to set up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep. 

Muguruza beat her fellow former world number one 3-6 6-3 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes, having been one point away from falling 5-3 down in an entertaining decider at Foro Italico. 

The 2016 French Open winner managed to hold her serve on that occasion, then broke to love in the next game before going on to seal the match at the third attempt. 

"I think it was a tough match. I knew it was going to be a tough match. She's a good player, she's playing good, she's with a lot of confidence," said Muguruza. 

"I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I was ready for it. I stood behind her and was waiting for my opportunities. She was playing great at the beginning. She took the first set. I kept myself together and said, 'Okay, let's start another battle in the second set'."

Next up for Muguruza is two-time Rome finalist Halep, who saw Yulia Putintseva retire from their quarter-final meeting due to a lower back injury. 

After dropping her serve to fall 6-2 2-0 down to the world number two in 47 minutes, Putintseva, who played back-to-back three-set matches in the previous two rounds, pulled out of the match. 

Halep said of Muguruza: "Every time I played well against her, [I was] as much as possible aggressive. If I play my best game and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she's playing so hard. 

"You don't really know what to expect. It's tough every time. So I don't plan for a specific match, because you never know on court."

Two-time Internazionali d'Italia champion Elina Svitolina was comprehensively beaten 6-3 6-0 by Marketa Vondrousova, who was the runner-up at last year's French Open. 

Standing between Vondrousova and her first final appearance since Roland Garros last year is reigning champion Karolina Pliskova. 

Second seed Pliskova overcame Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0 as she continued to impress after initially struggling when the WTA Tour returned in August.

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova cruised into the last eight at the Internazionali d'Italia on Friday, while Garbine Muguruza impressed again.

Tournament favourite Halep eventually looked comfortable in her 7-5 6-4 against Dayana Yastremska, but the Romanian had to fight back from a break down in the opening set as she was put on the back foot.

Halep slid 3-0 down in the opener, but she produced an admirable response when winning 12 of the following 13 points as she levelled up.

Another break from 5-5 allowed Halep to take charge, and from there she rarely looked in trouble, remaining in the ascendancy early in the second as she went 3-0 up, ultimately seeing out the win professionally despite Yastremska giving herself a chance with a break of her own.

"It was not easy against her because you don't really have the rhythm. She hits it very strong and it's tough to return her balls," Halep said, highlighting the need to get her head straight after the early wobble.

"After I lost the first three games, I just had to focus a little bit better and stop giving her the balls that she likes.

"I tried to change it up a little bit, make her move, [hit shots] a little bit high. I think during the match I found some solutions that were good to win.

"Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets."

Awaiting Halep is a meeting with Yulia Putintseva, who fought back from a set down against fellow Russia-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina to edge an absorbing contest 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Second seed and defending champion Pliskova came through fairly comfortably against Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-3, with the Czech next going up against Elise Mertens, who saw off Danka Kovinic in similarly routine fashion with a 6-4 6-4 victory.

Another tantalising quarter-final will be contested between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza. Spaniard Muguruza caught the eye as she beat seventh seed Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1, not dropping serve once against her British opponent.

Azarenka, who incredibly crushed Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin without dropping a game on Thursday, should be fresh for the quarter-final as her last-16 opponent Daria Kasatkina retired due to an ankle injury at 6-6 in the first set of their contest.

Top seed Karolina Pliskova crashed out of the US Open, while Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova advanced on Wednesday.

A former finalist in New York, Pliskova bowed out in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

It came on what was a mixed day for the seeds in the women's draw at the grand slam, which is being played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the likes of Osaka, Kvitova and Angelique Kerber progressed without dropping a set.

 

PLISKOVA CRASHES OUT

Runner-up in 2016, Pliskova fell to Caroline Garcia 6-1 7-6 (7-2) after one hour, 33 minutes.

Garcia, who reached fourth in the world rankings in 2018, produced 30 winners and just 17 unforced errors in an impressive win.

"In the second set I had set point. That was definitely one ball I could make. I had second serve on my forehand," Pliskova said.

"Maybe I should just play rally. I tried to go for it. It was a little bit windy on the court. I think she played amazing set and a half. Of course, I got my chances later in the second set. I didn't play good, so that's it."

Garcia will next face 28th seed Jennifer Brady, who thrashed CiCi Bellis 6-1 6-2 in just 51 minutes.

 

OSAKA, KVITOVA AND KERBER MOVE THROUGH

Osaka, the 2018 champion and fourth seed, was far too strong for Camila Giorgi in a 6-1 6-2 victory.

The Japanese two-time grand slam winner capitalised on a wayward display from Giorgi, who finished with 24 unforced errors.

"Just playing Camila, I haven't played her in a while, but I know that she goes for things," Osaka said. "For me it's really helpful mentally just because I know she's capable of finishing points.

"It gives me motive to play better, so she's not able to hit winners."

Awaiting Osaka in the third round is Marta Kostyuk after the Ukrainian teenager eliminated 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Kvitova, the Czech sixth seed, was tested before getting past Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Meanwhile, 17th seed Kerber beat Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-3 7-6 (8-6) in an all-German affair.

 

MLADENOVIC IN EPIC COLLAPSE

Kristina Mladenovic looked set for an easy passage into the third round against Russian Varvara Gracheva.

Mladenovic led 6-1 5-1 before an incredible collapse saw her beaten in three sets.

Gracheva saved four match points in the second set before claiming a 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 victory.

Mladenovic was one of seven seeds to fall on Wednesday, with Dayana Yastremska, Alison Riske, Elena Rybakina and Marketa Vondrousova joining Pliskova and Sevastova in exiting.

Former US Open champion Naomi Osaka was pushed to three sets in the opening round, while top seed Karolina Pliskova also made it through on day one.

Osaka – who was crowned queen of Flushing Meadows in 2018 – was tested by fellow Japanese player Misaki Doi under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights on Monday.

Pliskova saw off Anhelina Kalinina in the behind-closed-doors grand slam amid the coronavirus pandemic in New York.

However, American sensation Coco Gauff fell at the first hurdle.

 

OSAKA DISPATCHES DOI

Japanese star Osaka kicked off her bid to win a second US Open title with a 6-2 5-7 6-2 victory in the night session.

Osaka – the fourth seed – was challenged by Doi but the former world number one came through in two hours, two minutes.

In her first match since withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open final due to a hamstring injury, Osaka showed no ill effects – hitting 25 winners and 38 unforced errors while converting five of 11 break-point opportunities.

Next up for the 2019 Australian Open champion is Camila Giorgi, who outlasted Alison Van Uytvanck 2-6 6-1 7-5.

 

PLISKOVA OUTCLASSES KALININA

The 2016 US Open runner-up made it past the first round by beating Ukrainian Kalinina 6-4 6-0.

Pliskova was in command at 4-1 in the first set, but lost the next three games and had to fend off two break points to avoid going 5-4 down.

The world number three held and broke to love to take the first set before dominating the second in the Flushing Meadows bubble.

Pliskova will face Caroline Garcia in the second round after the 32nd seed beat Jasmine Paolini 6-3 6-2.

 

GAUFF OUSTED

For the first time in her career, American teenager Gauff lost in the first round of a grand slam following a 6-3 5-7 6-4 defeat against 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Gauff reached the fourth round at this year's Australian Open, but the 16-year-old crashed out at her home major.

 

KVITOVA, KERBER PROGRESS

Sixth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova eased past Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-2.

Three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber – the 17th seed – made her first appearance since January and defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-4.

Ons Jabeur continued her fine start to 2020 with the biggest win of her career as she stunned third seed Karolina Pliskova at the Qatar Open.

The Tunisian has surged to a career-high ranking of 44 having made history by reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

What it is rapidly developing into a breakthrough year saw another high point on Wednesday as she emerged victorious from a gruelling three-set battle with third seed Pliskova.

Kiki Bertens was another to suffer a surprise loss as Zheng Saisai came from a set down to see off the seventh seed.

Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka all progressed, while world number one Ashleigh Barty was one of two players to receive a walkover into the quarter-finals, where she will meet Garbine Muguruza.

JABEUR MAKES MORE HISTORY

It has already been an impressive year for Jabeur.

She added another achievement to an increasingly impressive CV by progressing to the last eight in Doha.

Having lost to Simona Halep in a third-set tie-break in Dubai, Jabeur made sure to finish the job against Pliskova, hitting 33 winners to prevail 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a thriller and knock out the 2017 champion.


ZHENG BATTLES BACK

Few would have predicted Bertens succumbing to Zheng considering she dropped just one set en route to the St. Petersburg Open title earlier this month.

There appeared little sign of a shock when Bertens took the first set, but Zheng superbly battled back to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win after two hours and 10 minutes.

Eighth seed Kvitova came through a frenetic contest with Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 5-7 6-1, while Bencic and Sabalenka earned straight-sets victories over Yulia Putintseva and Maria Sakkari.

MUGURUZA SETS UP BARTY CLASH

Though she was unable to overcome Sofia Kenin in the Australian Open final, Muguruza has been a player revitalised in 2020.

A clash with rising star Dayana Yastremska presented a significant hurdle, but she cleared it in relatively routine fashion.

Despite hitting only two winners, Muguruza capitalised on 29 unforced errors from Yastremska as the two-time grand slam champion wrapped up a 6-2 6-4 success.

Barty, whose meeting with Elena Rybakina was cancelled after the Kazakh withdrew with an abductor strain, is next for Muguruza. Svetlana Kuznetsova, meanwhile, progressed as Amanda Anisimova pulled out because of illness.

Ash Barty swept into the last 16 of the Qatar Open on Tuesday with a straight-sets dismantling of Laura Siegemund.

In her first match since the Australian Open, world number one Barty triumphed 6-3 6-2 in her opening match at the WTA Premier event.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin endured another difficult day, though, losing to 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska, while defending champion Elise Mertens also bowed out.

Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova all advanced, while Melbourne runner-up Garbine Muguruza was in imperious form as she dispatched Ajla Tomljanovic for the loss of just three games.

There were also wins for Saisai Zheng over Vera Zvonareva, Ons Jabeur against Jennifer Brady, Maria Sakkari over Tereza Martincova and Svetlana Kuznetsova against Iga Swiatek.

BARTY BLASTS OUT OF THE BLOCKS

Playing for the first time since losing to Kenin in the Australian Open semi-finals, Barty produced a disciplined performance to beat Siegemund in 73 minutes.

Barty hit 19 winners to 16 unforced errors but admitted she lost focus at some key moments.

"Happy overall to be able to switch on when I really needed to. Disappointing to have a few lapses in concentration but also a credit to my opponent, she came up with some really good stuff in runs to be able to break me a few times," she said.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina next after she battled to beat Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-8).

KENIN WOES CONTINUE

Kenin has now lost three times since lifting the first grand slam singles title of the season, the American slumping to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) loss to Yastremska.

"It's really frustrating," she said. "Obviously coming off of Melbourne where I felt I was playing the best tennis of my life coming down to playing, not the worst tennis, but not playing the tennis I want to be playing."

Yastremska will now meet Muguruza, who wasted little time in beating Tomljanovic 6-1 6-2.

 

PLISKOVA CHARGES ON AS SEEDS PROGRESS

Pliskova was beaten in the quarter-finals in Dubai by Rybakina but looks determined to go the distance in Doha, producing an accomplished performance to oust Bernarda Pera 6-3 6-0.

Fourth seed Bencic was given a tougher time by Veronika Kudermetova before claiming a 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-4) win that took more than two and a half hours.

Aryna Sabalenka edged a tight encounter with Anett Kontaveit 7-5 2-6 7-5, while Kvitova ended the challenge of Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6 6-3 6-0.

Defending champion Mertens is out, though, falling to Yulia Putintseva 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Top seed Simona Halep saved a match point in a gripping battle with Ons Jabeur before sealing her place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep was on the brink of a surprise defeat to the in-form world number 45, but hung in there to win a thriller 1-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion and Jabeur were given great backing from passionate Romanian and Tunisian supporters in a pulsating contest that swung one way and the other.

Halep appeared destined to complete the turnaround with ease when she led 3-0 in the final set, but the tenacious Jabeur was relishing the battle and showed great spirit to take the upper hand at 6-5.

The unseeded Jabeur was broken to love when serving for the match, though, and a double-fault gifted 2015 champion Halep a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, yet there was more drama to come.

Jabeur fended off three match points to earn one of her own, but Halep showed her grit to win the next two points before her gutsy opponent drilled a forehand long to end a tense two-hour contest.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after the seventh seed defeated Elise Mertens 6-4 6-3.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza advanced with a hard-fought Veronika Kudermetova, winning 7-5 4-6 6-4 two days after knocking out the returning Kim Clijsters.

Elena Rybakina, a three-time finalist this year, got the better of Katerina Siniakova for the second successive week, a 6-3, 6-3 victory setting up a meeting with Karolina Pliskova.

Second seed Pliskova lost just three games in emphatic defeat of Kristina Mladenovic, while Petra Martic, Jennifer Brady and Anett Kontaveit were also victorious.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova and fifth seed Elina Svitolina were high-profile casualties in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

Pliskova fell to a straight-sets defeat to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svitolina was soundly beaten by two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza.

Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic were also sent packing, losing to Anett Kontaveit and Iga Swiatek respectively.

There was no sign of a slip-up from former world number one Simona Halep, however, as she made serene progress to the next round by easing past Yulia Putintseva.

 

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA CRASH OUT

After defending champion Naomi Osaka and 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams were eliminated on Friday, Pliskova joined the star duo in dropping out of the tournament.

Pliskova went down 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) to 30th seed Pavlyuchenkova in the first match on Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.

"I think she was playing very well. Maybe the best she played against me so far in the last couple matches," Pliskova told reporters. "But let's say I was [at] about 40 per cent of my game, so of course then she can feel so much better if I just don't play enough [of] what I can play. 

"That's how it is. I think especially [in] the important moments she always served well so I had a couple chances here and there. But I think she just played better than me."

Svitolina did not fare much better as she lost to Muguruza in 67 minutes, the Spaniard - now ranked 32 in the world - hitting 31 winners to advance 6-1 6-2.

 

BENCIC, VEKIC SENT PACKING

It was another tough day for seeds as Bencic (6) and Vekic (19) failed to progress beyond the third round in Melbourne.

US Open semi-finalist Bencic was swept aside in just 49 minutes, humbled 6-0 6-1 by 28th seed Kontaveit on Margaret Court Arena.

"I think every grand slam there are seeded players losing, so I think this grand slam was even the best because no top-10 player lost in first round," she said in a news conference. "It's the same at every grand slam. There are upsets, and I think it's normal, because it's tennis, and tennis is very unpredictable."

Kontaveit will face Swiatek after the 18-year-old stunned Vekic 7-5 6-3.

 

HALEP, KERBER MOVE ON

Halep thwarted in-form Putintseva 6-1 6-4 to move through to the second week of the slam for a third consecutive year.

Fourth seed Halep - runner-up in Melbourne two years ago - needed one hour, 18 minutes to progress to the fourth round.

Away from Rod Laver Arena, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber ground out a 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi.

Kerber was pushed but the three-time major winner clinched a spot in the fourth round for the fifth successive season after two hours, eight minutes.

 

MERTENS AND BERTENS ADVANCE

Next up for Halep is 16th seed Elise Mertens, who required three sets to overcome CiCi Bellis.

Mertens was two points from victory in the second set after taking a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak but failed to close it out. However, she managed to keep her run alive by reeling off the next six games in succession.

The 2018 semi-finalist breezed through the final set to wrap up a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 victory in just under two hours.

Joining Mertens in the next round was Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens, who made the second week of the Australian Open for the first time.

Bertens claimed a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory over Zarina Diyas and has a meeting with Svitolina's conqueror Muguruza to look forward to.

Karolina Pliskova became the latest high-profile casualty at the Australian Open, the second seed stunned by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets.  

Defending champion Naomi Osaka and 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams crashed out at Melbourne Park on Friday.

Pliskova – another women's singles contender – joined the star duo in departing the year's opening slam following Saturday's 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) defeat to 30th seed and two-time quarter-finalist Pavlyuchenkova.

A semi-finalist last year, Pliskova had matched or improved her best results at the Australian Open year-on-year since debuting in 2013.

However, the 2016 US Open runner-up was unable to build on her performances at Melbourne Park, where she succumbed to the aggressive Pavlyuchenkova in a gruelling encounter on Rod Laver Arena.

Pavlyuchenkova raced out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set, which was highlighted by a 30-point second game, before eventually prevailing in a tie-break after Pliskova rallied.

Pliskova, who finished with 35 winners and 29 unforced errors, recovered from a slow start in the second to force another tie-break but the Czech star was unable to send the match into a deciding set.

After tallying 51 winners and 43 unforced errors in two hours, 25 minutes, Pavlyuchenkova will face 2016 champion and three-time slam winner Angelique Kerber in the last 16.

Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber claimed comfortable second-round wins at the Australian Open as Garbine Muguruza survived a scare on Thursday.

It was a good day for the women's seeds at Melbourne Park, as 10 of the 12 in action moved into the third round.

Halep, Pliskova and Kerber were among them, while the unseeded Muguruza also progressed.

The top 10 seeds remain alive in the women's draw, with a few familiar faces shaping as contenders once more.

 

HALEP, PLISKOVA AND KERBER PROGRESS

A runner-up in Melbourne in 2018, fourth seed Halep was largely untroubled in a 6-2 6-4 win over British qualifier Harriet Dart.

The Romanian managed five breaks of serve and will meet Yulia Putintseva, who edged last year's semi-finalist Danielle Collins, scoring a 6-4 2-6 7-5 win against the 26th seed.

Pliskova has reached at least the quarter-finals at the past three Australian Opens and the Czech second seed looks like a challenger.

She had few problems in a 6-3 6-3 victory over Laura Siegemund on Rod Laver Arena.

Pliskova will next face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after the Russian 30th seed battled past Taylor Townsend 7-5 7-6 (7-1).

Kerber, the 2016 champion, was untroubled by Australian wildcard Priscilla Hon in a 6-3 6-2 win.

MUGURUZA FIGHTS THROUGH

Two-time grand slam champion Muguruza was pushed in a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.

Muguruza mixed 34 winners with 39 unforced errors, but an even bigger test awaits in the third round.

FIfth seed Elina Svitolina set up a meeting with Muguruza by overcoming American Lauren Davis 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

That late-night clash on Margaret Court Arena became dramatic in the second set as Svitolina failed to seize a chance to serve for the match, Davis forcing the tense tie-break.

 

BENCIC, VEKIC CONTINUE RUNS

Coming off a semi-final appearance at the US Open last year, Belinda Bencic overcame former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 7-5.

The Swiss star will meet Anett Kontaveit, who recorded a 6-2 4-6 6-1 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Donna Vekic, the 19th seed, has cruised through her opening two matches after brushing past Alize Cornet 6-4 6-2.

Meanwhile, Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens was too good for Australian wildcard Arina Rodionova 6-3 7-5.

Karolina Muchova, the 20th-seeded Czech, was well beaten by CiCi Bellis 6-4 6-4.

Twenty-year-old American Bellis is playing her first grand slam in two years after injury kept her out of action for 18 months.

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova came through their first-round matches at the Australian Open, as Maria Sharapova suffered an early exit in the women's singles.

Fourth seed Halep was handed a testing opener against Jennifer Brady, who had beaten Ash Barty at the Brisbane International this month.

But the Romanian prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 in one hour and 36 minutes to join home hope Barty, defending champion Naomi Osaka and tournament favourite Serena Williams in round two.

An up-and-down first set was crucial, as Halep twice recovered from a break down and saved three set points while Brady was serving at 6-5.

Halep found a way to force a tie-break and then edged it 7-5 before running away with the contest in the second set.

Wimbledon champion Halep also had to overcome a first-set fall that required the trainer to check on her wrist and joked she had also stumbled in her first match of the 2018 tournament, when she made it all the way to the final.

"In 2018 it was the same, probably I can repeat that!" said Halep.

"I don't know why in the first round always I fall down. Maybe it's a good sign but it's too far to think about that.

"My wrist is pretty painful. I need to chill and recover for the second round."

Second seed Pliskova earned a 6-1 7-5 victory over Kristina Mladenovic, losing serve just once in the 87-minute battle. The Czech faces Laura Siegemund next, while Halep will take on Harriet Dart.


TOP 10 ALL THROUGH AS SHARAPOVA'S WOES CONTINUE

Sharapova suffered her third consecutive loss in the first round of a grand slam following a 6-3 6-4 defeat against 19th seed Donna Vekic as the former world number one hit 31 unforced errors.

A first-round casualty at Wimbledon and the US Open, Sharapova - who has been struggling for form and fitness - crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2010.

Sixth seed Belinda Bencic won 6-3 7-5 against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, while Madison Keys was a 6-3 6-1 victor against Daria Kasatkina, as all of the top 10 seeds moved safely into round two.

Elina Svitolina claimed a 6-4 7-5 victory in her match against Katie Boulter, while former grand slam champions Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza were winners against Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Shelby Rogers respectively. Muguruza won by an unusual 0-6 6-1 6-0 scoreline.


KONTA AND VONDROUSOVA BOW OUT

Johanna Konta, Marketa Vondrousova, Amanda Anisimova and Anastasija Sevastova were the seeds to fall on day two.

An Australian Open semi-finalist in 2016, British 12th seed Konta suffered a 6-4 6-2 loss to Ons Jabeur.

On the comeback trail following a tendinitis-related problem in her right knee, which forced her to withdraw from Brisbane and Adelaide, Konta was only making her second appearance since losing in the US Open quarter-finals last year.

Konta said: "Ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am. How I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September. Before Brisbane I had been out for almost four-and-a-half months."

Czech Vondrousova, the 15th seed and French Open finalist last year, lost in three sets to Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Another rising star fell as 18-year-old American Anisimova lost out in a final set to Zarina Diyas, while home hope Ajla Tomljanovic emphatically accounted for Sevastova with a 6-1 6-1 triumph to book a round-two meeting with Muguruza.

Venus Williams' clash with Coco Gauff headlines the Australian Open first round, but former champion Stan Wawrinka also faces an early test in Melbourne.

Williams and Gauff will meet for the second time in what is a blockbuster opening-round encounter.

But there are several intriguing clashes in the first round at the year's first grand slam and we take a look at six of the best.

 

Damir Dzumhur v Stan Wawrinka [15]

Wawrinka would have preferred a friendlier draw than a man he has lost to in two of their three meetings. The Swiss 2014 champion was resurgent last year, while Dzumhur has been unable to replicate the form of his breakout season in 2017. Still, the Bosnian beat Wawrinka in three sets on clay in Geneva last year so the three-time grand slam champion will have to be near his best.

Daniil Medvedev [4] v Frances Tiafoe

Tiafoe thrilled during a run to the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year, but that would prove to be the high point of his 2019. The American has made a slow start to 2020 with first-round losses in Doha and Auckland, but was competitive against Medvedev in a 6-2 7-5 loss in Washington last year. After a spectacular 2019 that included reaching the US Open final, Medvedev shapes as the most likely to stop the 'Big Three', although he will need to get through a somewhat tricky opener first.

Sam Querrey v Borna Coric [25]

While he has dropped off since 2017, Querrey will fancy his chances against Coric after the Croatian's difficult finish to last year. Coric finished 2019 with six straight losses and suffered two more at the ATP Cup, to go with a win over Dominic Thiem. After four consecutive first-round exits in Melbourne, Coric reached the fourth round last year, while Querrey has never been beyond the third round in Melbourne. Coric won their only previous meeting at the French Open in 2015.

Venus Williams v Coco Gauff

Arguably the pick of any first-round match, the 39-year-old Williams meets the 15-year-old Gauff once more. Gauff stunned Williams 6-4 6-4 at Wimbledon last year and her ranking then (313) compared to now (66) tells the story of how she finished 2019 as the teenager followed it up with a title win in Linz. Williams withdrew from Brisbane due to injury, making this a hugely tough task for the seven-time grand slam singles champion.

Kristina Mladenovic v Karolina Pliskova [2]

Pliskova has enjoyed Melbourne in recent years, reaching at least the quarter-finals in each of the past three, but was handed a tough start in 2020. The Czech is coming off a title win in Brisbane and that will give her much-needed confidence ahead of facing former world number 10 Mladenovic. The pair have split their previous four meetings, with Mladenovic winning the last of those in 2017.

Donna Vekic [19] v Maria Sharapova

A wildcard, Sharapova was always going to be the danger in the draw – and she landed alongside 19th seed Vekic. Vekic enjoyed a fine 2019 to rise into the world's top 20, while Sharapova battled injuries and has fallen to 145th in the rankings. Vekic should be the favourite to advance, but if five-time major winner Sharapova can find some form, the Russian is always a threat and last bowed out in the opening round in Melbourne in 2010.

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