Coco Gauff kicked off her 2020 Australian Open in style, beating Venus Williams in straight sets to advance to the second round in Melbourne on Monday.
Gauff won 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 to beat Williams for the second time in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament.
Gauff Gaining Confidence
The two played each other in the first round at Wimbledon last year. The 15-year-old Gauff was the youngest player in the field on both occasions, while Williams, 39, was the oldest.
While she was initially shocked to be playing the legendary Williams yet again, Gauff said this encounter felt very different from their first.
“I definitely was more confident this time,” Gauff said after the match. “I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd – I guess the size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time.”
Several top-seeded women also played their opening matches on Monday, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, and Ashleigh Barty. Serena is the favorite to win the tournament at +350, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, ahead of Barty (+750) and Osaka (+800).
Federer Continues First-Round Streak
On the men’s side of the draw, Roger Federer had little trouble with his first opponent, beating American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Federer hasn’t lost an opening round match at a Grand Slam tournament since 2003, and is 21-0 lifetime in the first round at the Australian Open.
“I’m happy that I was able to manage those first rounds,” Federer said, also crediting the fact that 32 players are seeded at Grand Slams, which ensures a relatively weak first-round opponent for top players. “As we know, they can always be very tricky. That’s why Masters 1000 [tournaments] are tough sometimes. You can play a top-20 player in the first round, and that’s when it gets tough.”
Tournament favorite Novak Djokovic also picked up a first-round win, though it took him four sets to finish off Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1. Djokovic is listed at +105 to win the event, ahead of Rafael Nadal (+550), Daniil Medvedev (+800), and Federer (+900).
Rain Welcome at Australian Open
Smoke from wildfires threatened the Australian Open throughout qualifying, with fears that the poor air quality seen last week could continue into the main draw. Instead, it was heavy rain that interrupted play on Monday, forcing play to halt on the outdoor courts. That left only the three main arenas in action, meaning dozens of matches were either suspended or never able to start.
Delays can potentially cause schedule congestion for players in later rounds. But most people welcomed the storms, which could help contain the massive bushfires in the country, and which seemed to improve the air quality for players.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel any difference,” said No. 25 seed Borna Coric, who lost to Sam Querrey on Monday. “I can understand some players do feel it, and I respect that. For me, I was more bothered by my forehand and serve than with the air quality.”