Tennis·ROUNDUP

Marino makes quick exit at Australian Open for Canada, falls to Pegula in straight sets

Vancouver's Rebecca Marino is out of the Australian Open after dropping a 6-2, 6-4 decision to American Jessica Pegula in the first round on Tuesday. Fellow Canadian Leylah Fernandez is scheduled to play her second-round match at 7 p.m. ET.

Top-ranked Swiatek into 2nd round; Alcaraz overpowers Gasquet in men's action

Holding a tennis bag over her right shoulder, a Canadian women's tennis player looks back and waves to the crowd with her right hand while leaving the court at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Rebecca Marino leaves Margaret Court Arena on Tuesday following a straight-sets loss to fifth seed Jessica Pegula of the United States in first-round action at the Australian Open. (Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Vancouver's Rebecca Marino is out of the Australian Open after dropping a 6-2, 6-4 decision to American Jessica Pegula in the first round on Tuesday.

Pegula, the tournament's fifth seed, landed 72 per cent of her first serves, while Marino struggled with her service game and landed just 44 per cent.

The American also fended off four of five break-point attempts in a match that lasted 65 minutes.

Pegula started her day watching TV coverage of the Buffalo Bills beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-17 in an AFC wild-card playoff.

She acknowledged some Buffalo fans in the crowd holding up "Billieve" signs.

"It was on at 8:30 this morning," she said in a post-match TV interview. "I'm happy I could finish the day with a win. It was a good day for Buffalo!"

WATCH: Marino ousted in opening round:

Vancouver's Rebecca Marino drops opening match at Aussie Open

3 months ago
Duration 1:03
The Canadian was overmatched by fifth-seeded American Jessica Pegula, losing in straight sets in Melbourne.

Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., the No. 32 seed, won her opening match over the weekend and was scheduled to meet unseeded American Alycia Parks at 7 p.m. ET in a second-round match.

Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and New Zealand's Erin Routliffe — seeded fourth in women's doubles — were set to meet Linda Fruhvirtova of Czechia and American Ashlyn Krueger in the opening round at 11:30 p.m.

Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime, the lone Canadian still competing in the men's singles draw, was scheduled to play Hugo Grenier of France in second-round play.

The bugs bothered Carlos Alcaraz in his first match at the Australian Open for two years, and so did the 37-year-old veteran Richard Gasquet.

For the first set, at least.

Alcaraz cruises after 72-minute opening set

After taking an hour and 12 minutes to clinch the opener in a tiebreaker, second-ranked Alcaraz raced through the rest of the match in another hour against the tiring, sweat-soaked Frenchman for a 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-2 win.

The first two games took a combined 17 minutes, with the 20-year-old Alcaraz needing a few moments to try to remove a persistent insect that was bothering him behind the baseline just before he held for 1-1.

Both players used their rackets to push the bugs away from the court after the eighth game, and Alcaraz was at it again after the first set.

There were few distractions after that until Alcaraz was serving for the match and the game went to deuce five times before he closed with an ace.

He threw in some drop shots and slices that made Gasquet run, saying it shows he's "playing for myself, but I always try to make the people enjoy watching tennis."

"Every set, I played better and better," he said. "In the end, I played at quite a good level."

He will next play Lorenzo Sonego, who beat Dan Evans 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-2, 7-6 (4).

A Spanish male player celebrates a point in his first-round match against A French male player during the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia.
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates a point in his first-round match against Richard Gasquet of France on Tuesday. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Last year, Alcaraz had to withdraw from the Australian Open because of an injured right leg. That was the rare hiccup in a run of four major tournaments that netted him two titles — the 2022 U.S. Open and Wimbledon last year — and trips to the semifinals.

Gasquet was playing in his 17th Australian Open and his 73rd Grand Slam singles draw overall — equal third with Novak Djokovic on the all-time list for the Open era.

A first-round loss in Auckland last week ended Gasquet's streak of 843 consecutive weeks in the top 100 dating back to April 2005.

Elsewhere, 11th-seeded Casper Ruud beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1, No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov overcame Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-2 and Cameron Norrie defeated Juan Pablo Varillas 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Swiatek outlasts Kenin

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek survived an early test of her Australian Open title hopes when she beat former champion Sofia Kenin 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the first round.

Kenin, the winner in 2020, served for the first set at 5-4 but could not close it out and Swiatek took it in the tiebreaker. The No. 1 seed then broke Kenin in the fifth game of the second set and held on to clinch victory.

"Really happy," said Swiatek, who hit 30 winners. "It wasn't easy to find my rhythm. I felt a little bit off and Sofia did everything to keep it that way, huge respect to her. I managed to get my level up in the second set."

The Polish player is trying to win her fifth Grand Slam title but her first in Melbourne.

She'll face another tough second-round match against 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins, who beat 2016 champion Angelique Kerber 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Kerber was one of three past Australian champions making their returns to Melbourne Park for the first time as moms. She joined four-time major winner Naomi Osaka as a first-round exit. Caroline Wozniacki, the 2018 winner, has reached the second round.

Earlier, Sloane Stephens picked up her first win at the Australian Open since 2019 when she beat wild-card entry Olivia Gadecki 6-3, 6-1. The 30-year-old American, who won the U.S. Open in 2017, won five straight games from 2-0 down in the opening set and eased through the second to clinch victory in just under an hour.

"Pleased with the way I played," said Stephens, who reached the semifinals of the event in 2013 but who has lost in the first round in seven of her past eight visits to Melbourne. "I've been working a lot on making the opponents play. I think that's something I had got away from. Pleased with the win."

Third seed Elena Rybakina made a slow start but shifted into top gear when it mattered to down tricky Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (6) 6-4.

Broken to open the contest on Rod Laver Arena as her serve faltered and 6-3 down in the first-set tiebreak, Rybakina showed great fight to get back in the contest and finish it in two sets.

"It was a really tough match for me today, Karolina played really well," Rybakina said.

"But I'm really happy that I managed to win and survive the first set and in the second set it was a little better. I just want to enjoy it here and go as far I can."

Victoria Azarenka, who won back-to-back titles here in 2012 and 2013, won a hard-hitting contest with Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Daria Kasatkina, who is seeded 14th and next plays Stephens, beat Peyton Stearns 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

With files from The Associated Press & Reuters

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