The opening day of the Australian Open sees a number of leading players take to the courts at Melbourne Park to get their 2019 Grand Slam campaigns underway, with all hoping to still be here in two weekends time when the trophies are handed out.
Among the stars on show on the first day are Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens and Marin Cilic while both defending champions begin their title defences. It could also be the last time we see Andy Murray on a tennis court.
Rod Laver Arena
The first match up on Rod Laver Arena this year sees the former Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova in action. She faces the British woman Harriet Dart for a place in the second round. All eyes will then be on Rafael Nadal as he takes to the main arena to face the Australian player James Duckworth. Angelique Kerber rounds off a good looking day session when she faces Polona Hercog.
The night session is top quality on the opening evening. Both defending champions get their title defences started with Caroline Wozniacki first into action. She faces the Belgian player Alison Van Uytvanck who came into prominence at Wimbledon before Roger Federer takes on a man who has a win over Novak Djokovic to his name on this court in Denis Istomin.
Margaret Court Arena
The German star Julia Goerges is the first seeded star in action on the second court on Monday. She takes on the competent Danielle Collins before an all-American battle takes place as the former US Open champion Sloane Stephens faces her compatriot Taylor Townsend for a place in the second round. The day session concludes when home hopeful Alex de Minaur goes up against Pedro Sousa of Portugal.
There is a night session on most of the courts this year and the one on this court begins with the Sydney finalist Ash Barty taking on the Thailand ace Luksika Kumkhum. The men’s match in the night session looks a cracker as Marin Cilic goes up against the controversial Australian player Bernard Tomic.
The schedule on this court looks fantastic for the opening day of a Grand Slam. It begins with the number five seed Kevin Anderson taking on Adrian Mannarino before the improving Maria Sakkari faces the former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko before the first British man is on show on a main court when Kyle Edmund faces Tomas Berdych.
The night session begins a little earlier than on the other courts and it could be an emotional evening too as Andy Murray takes on Roberto Bautista Agut in what could be the final match of his career. The last match of the day on this court sees the Sydney champion Petra Kvitova going up against Magdalena Rybarikova in a horrible first round draw for the Czech star.
Two French women start the action off on the newly named 1573 Arena when Jessika Ponchet takes on Caroline Garcia before a decent enough looking men’s match takes place as the former semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov faces Janko Tipsarevic who is still in Grand Slam action despite his struggles of recent seasons. The first part of the schedule on this court concludes with Alison Riske taking on Kiki Bertens.
There is one more match on the card on this court and it comes later in the proceedings. Home star Matthew Ebden faces up to the German challenger Jan Lennard Struff to round off the action for the first day.
Best of the Rest
If you have a ground pass for the action or are staying up to watch it on one of the many betting streams there is much to like around the grounds. Popular Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas features on Court 3 while our outright fancy Karen Khachanov headlines the card on Court 7. Court 8 could be a decent one to focus on with Donna Vekic, John Isner and Gael Monfils all on show there. Lesia Tsurenko, Diego Schwartzman and Fernando Verdasco are among the seeded players also dotted around the grounds.
I’ll go with a few in the men’s draw on Monday. Kyle Edmund isn’t in the greatest physical shape at the minute by all accounts so he has to be taken on with a back to full health Tomas Berdych. I’m surprised Berdych is only given up 3.5 games in this one as Edmund wasn’t in the best form towards the end of last year anyway. Berdych is a seasoned campaigner here with a decent record and take that run to the semi-finals here last year out, Edmund has never really figured much in a Grand Slam. I’m happy for Berdych to power through here.
You only had to look at Andy Murray in his press conference to see the issues he is going to have with Roberto Bautista Agut, who already has a title to his name this year having won in Doha at the turn of the year. He beat Novak Djokovic on his way to that title so he must be hitting the ball very nicely. The longer the match goes on the more Murray may well struggle and in fairness he hasn’t looked particularly good since his return to the tour anyway. Murray has no quit in him but he is nothing like the player he once was and as long as the Spaniard is ruthless here I expect him to cover 6.5 games.
Tennys Sandgren was a big feature of the tournament here last year and I’m surprised he is odds against to begin with a win on Monday. He faces the Japanese player Yoshihito Nishioka who may lack the weapons to trouble Sandgren. The American player never lost a set on his way to the title in Auckland last week and had some competent players among his victims there. The Japanese player had an outing in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago and was wiped out 64 63 by Grigor Dimitrov. I think the American is the one to be with here.
Marin Cilic is yet to begin his 2019 campaign because of playing the Davis Cup and a niggling knee issue so the last thing he needed was a first round draw against a Bernard Tomic who has little to lose and a big stage to perform on. You always have to edge on the side of caution where Tomic is concerned but I was taking Cilic on whoever he drew here. 5.5 games is enough of a start for me to get involved.
Two interest me in the women’s draw on Monday too. Belinda Bencic begun the year partnering Roger Federer in the Hopman Cup and if that doesn’t inspire your best form nothing will. The Swiss ace then went and made the semi-final in Hobart last week so she’s in good nick. Her opponent Katerina Siniakova is well ranked but she hasn’t begun 2019 particularly well so I think Bencic is the one to be on in that match.
You’ll need to have been in a cave not to have heard the news about Caroline Wozniacki suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and while we hope that she isn’t too inconvenienced by it, the evidence since she revealed the issue is beginning to suggest otherwise. Alison Van Uytvanck might not be the best player in the world but she was a semi-finalist in Linz towards the back end of last season and took care of Garbine Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit on big stages at Wimbledon. She has enough to be more than competitive against the Danish defending champion.
As with the last couple of Grand Slams we’ll look to put together some winning daily accumulators and throw £10 at them for some interest through the night and into the early hours.
£10 wins £68.70
WON – Back T.Berdych (-3.5 games) to beat K.Edmund for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Betfred
Back him here:
Back T.Sandgren to beat Y.Nishioka for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Coral
Back B.Tomic (+5.5 games) to beat M.Cilic for a 4/10 stake at 2.10 with William Hill
Back him here:
WON – Back B.Bencic to beat K.Siniakova for a 4/10 stake at 1.75 with BetVictor
WON – Back A.Van Uytvanck (+5.5 games) to beat C.Wozniacki for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Boylesports
Back her here:
Back R.Bautista Agut (-6.5 games) to beat A.Murray for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Bet365
Back Daily Accumulator at Bet365