MELBOURNE, Australia — Sure, Sofia Kenin struggled in her first match as a defending champion at a Grand Slam tournament.
The 22-year-old from Florida struggled with jitters at the Australian Open. Struggled with her shots. Struggled against an opponent who hasn’t won a tour-level match.
<p>Kenin, though, knows all that really matters: Who can claim the final point. And, eventually, she did that Tuesday (Monday PST), setting aside an early deficit and beating 133rd-ranked Australian wild-card entry Maddison Inglis 7-5, 6-4.</p> <p>“I’m obviously not too happy with the way I played,” Kenin said with a chuckle, “but a win is a win.”</p> <p>Inglis is still searching for one: She fell to 0-6 for her career.</p> <p>But she made it hard on Kenin, who avoided becoming the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2003 to lose in the first round at the Australian Open a year after winning the championship.</p> <!-- Missed: ad --> <!-- Missed: ad --> <p>“First round, it’s obviously nerves for me,” said Kenin, who followed up her first major title last year by reaching the final at the French Open.</p> <!-- heart/article/content/photo.tpl --> <img src="https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/16/42/40/20588596/5/1200x0.jpg" alt="Sofia Kenin, a 22-year-old American, plays a backhand on Day 2 in Melbourne Park. The champion won but did not impress." /><p>Sofia Kenin, a 22-year-old American, plays a backhand on Day 2 in Melbourne Park. The champion won but did not impress.</p>Cameron Spencer / Getty Images<!-- e heart/article/content/photo.tpl --><p>Coco Gauff, a 16-year-old American, topped Jil Teichmann of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2 to set up a second-round matchup against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina. Gauff, ranked 48th, served out the first set with three aces in the final game and gained momentum from there.</p> <!-- Missed: ad --> <p>A year ago, Gauff advanced to the round of 16 in her Melbourne debut, and that run included an upset over Naomi Osaka. Gauff also reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2019, making a splash in her first Grand Slam appearance.</p> <!-- Missed: ad --> <p>The woman Kenin defeated for the title in Melbourne, two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza, also advanced, defeating Margarita Gasparyan of Russia 6-4, 6-0.</p> <p>Victoria Azarenka, a two-time title winner at the Australian Open and the runner-up at last year’s U.S. Open, appeared to have trouble breathing and received medical attention in the second set of a 7-5, 6-4 loss to Jessica Pegula of the U.S.</p> <p>Azarenka didn’t want to discuss her health afterward, but she did note how difficult it was to prepare for a major tournament after being one of 72 players in a hard quarantine for two weeks — not allowed to leave hotels — after potentially being exposed to the coronavirus on her flight to Australia.</p> <!-- Missed: ad --> <p>“The biggest impact for me personally has been not being able to have fresh air,” the 12th seed said. “That really took a toll.”</p> <!-- src/business/widgets/hearst/collection/widget.tpl --><!-- e src/business/widgets/hearst/collection/widget.tpl --><p>Another player, Paula Badosa, lost in the first round after going through a three-week isolation because she tested positive for the virus.</p> <p>The 23-year-old from Spain, who is ranked 70th, served for the match but dropped the last four games and was beaten 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-5 across more than 2 ½ hours by Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova.</p> <p>“It was tough for me to recover,” Badosa said.</p> <p>In other early results on Day 2, 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest man to win a Grand Slam match since Thanasi Kokkinakis, who was one day younger at the 2014 Australian Open. The Spaniard beat Dutch qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in the highly anticipated debut match for a teen compared to Rafael Nadal.</p> <p>Alcaraz said he was nervous before the match and didn’t relax in the first couple of games. After settling down, he broke his opponent twice to take the opening set in 22 minutes.</p> <p>“I’m very happy to (get) this win today in my first Grand Slam,” he said. “I try to enjoy, to play my game. I think I did it.”</p> <p>A seeded woman exited the tournament when Ann Li, a 20-year-old American, defeated No. 31 Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-0 in just 47 minutes to improve to 5-0 this season. Li is ranked 69th and in her third career Grand Slam tournament.</p> <p>She is coming off an unusual accomplishment at a tuneup tournament at Melbourne Park last week: Li shared the title of the Grampians Trophy with Anett Kontaveit because organizers decided not to hold a final so as not to wear out the players right before the Australian Open.</p> <p>That warmup event was created for players who were in a hard lockdown last month.</p>