Angelique Kerber feels effects of quarantine in early Australian Open exit

Former champion Angelique Kerber made an early exit from the Australian Open and said spending two weeks in hard quarantine ahead of the grand slam had contributed to her first-round loss.

Serena Williams showed no signs of a shoulder injury as she strolled through with a commanding win over German Laura Siegemund, while Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka was the first big gun to register a win on day one at Melbourne Park.

Kerber, the German former world No 1, was one of 72 players who were unable to leave their rooms to train during quarantine after passengers on their flights to Melbourne tested positive for Covid-19.

Her opponent Bernarda Pera was not among that cohort and the American ousted the 2016 Australian Open champion 6-0 ,6-4 in little more than an hour on the first morning of the tournament.

Of course, you feel it if you are not the hitting ball for two weeks and you are not in the rhythm,” Kerber said after her earliest exit from Melbourne Park for six years.

“I was really trying to staying positive and doing the best out of the two-week situation but you feel it, especially if you play one of the first matches in a grand slam … against an opponent who didn’t stay in the hard lockdown.”

Kerber congratulated Australia on its success in containing the new coronavirus and said she had enjoyed playing in front of fans again, however briefly.

The 33-year-old thought, however, that she might have reconsidered the long trip to Australia if she had known she would have to remain locked in her room for 14 days.

“When I look back, of course I was not planning the two weeks in hard quarantine,” she added. “I don’t know, maybe if I knew that before to stay really two weeks in the hard quarantine without hitting a ball, maybe I would think twice about that.”

Seven-time championSerena Williams, donning a brightly-coloured one-legged catsuit on Rod Laver Arena, lost the opening game but then swept aside Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour.

The 39-year-old, who is seeded 10th, had withdrawn from a lead-up tournament semi-final against Ash Barty but did not appear hindered in the one-sided affair.

Osaka, the 2019 champion and two-time US Open winner, dispelled any fitness concerns with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Russia’s three-time quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

The 22-year-old had withdrawn from her Open warm-up event with a shoulder niggle, but advanced comfortably on Monday to a second-round clash with either Polona Hercog or Caroline Garcia.

Venus Williams, a finalist at Melbourne Park in 2003 and 2017, also enjoyed a winning start at Margaret Court Arena, advancing with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens. Williams used all of her vast experience to keep things tight against Flipkens, the 40-year-old making just 13 unforced errors compared to 30 from her Belgian opponent.

In the men’s draw, Dominic Thiem rebounded from an indifferent build-up to safely progress to the second round. The Austrian world No 3 led most of the big names through on day one with a 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin.

Alex Zverev, the No 6 seed, also progessed, with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over the American, Marcos Giron, while former champion Stan Wawrinka and the power-serving Milos Raonic remain on track for an explosive early-round showdown after impressive starts to their campaigns.‘I don’t have much respect for him’: Novak Djokovic reignites Kyrgios feudRead more

Wawrinka, the 2014 Open winner, underlined his title credentials with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Portugal’s Pedro Sousa.

Switzerland’s three-time major champion fired down seven aces and did not face a single break point all match in storming into the second round in one hour and 36 minutes on Monday.

“I was feeling good. It was a great match for a first round,” the 17th seed said. “Playing well, playing some good balls. I was playing aggressive, feeling better than last week.”

Wawrinka will face either Australian wildcard Marc Polmans or Hungarian Marton Fucsovics next before potentially meeting 14th seed Raonic in round three.

Raonic was equally untroubled in his opener, crunching 17 aces in his 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Argentine Federico Coria.

“It’s good to be efficient early on. A lot goes on throughout two weeks. There can be really difficult moments. There’s bound to be,” the Canadian said. “Especially after competing just last week, that kind of efficiency, hopefully it can pay off down the line.”

The former Wimbledon runner-up will play Corentin Moutet on Wednesday for a place in the last 32 after the Frenchman wore down Australian John Millman in five sets, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Moutet’s countryman Gael Monfils was the first major seeded casualty, the world No 11 falling in five sets to Finnish youngster Emil Ruusuvuori. Remaining the best player of his generation yet to win a grand slam, the 10th-seeded Monfils went down 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a three-hour, 46-minute boilover.

Other early winners included Reilly Opelka, the American who last week claimed “no one feels welcome” in Melbourne because of the quarantine conditions brought on by the global pandemic. Now assured of a $150,000 minimum pay day, Opelka advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over Taiwan’s Yen-hsun Lu.

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