MELBOURNE, Australia – Former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova's run of first-round exits at the majors continued with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Donna Vekic at the Australian Open.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam title winner, was given a wild card for the main draw at Melbourne Park after her year-end ranking slipped to 136 in 2019 after a season interrupted by injuries. The 2008 Australian Open winner reached the fourth round here last year, missed the French Open and then lost in the first rounds at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
In other women's matches:
Top-ranked Ash Barty lost the first set of her first-round match before recovering to beat Leisa Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena. Barty is aiming to become the first homegrown winner in more than 40 years,.
"Absolutely incredible," Barty said of her first match of the year on Melbourne Park's premier stage. "Probably the moment I've been looking forward to the most in the offseason."
Caty McNally, an 18-year-old American qualifier, upset 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia 6-1, 6-4. Another past champion at Flushing Meadows, Sloane Stephens, bowed out, too, beaten by Zhang Shuai 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 7-5.
On the men's side, Novak Djokovic did something he hadn't in 14 years: He dropped a set in a first-round match at the Australian Open.
That didn't bother him, though.
"I actually like tough first rounds — in Grand Slams, particularly," the defending champion said after getting past 37th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1. "Because it gets me going. From the beginning, I have to be alert. I have to be on a high level. And I think I was."
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal opened with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien.
No. 12-seeded Fabio Fognini lost the first two sets of a suspended match against Reilly Opelka but rallied Tuesday to win 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3 7-6 (5), including the 10-point tiebreaker in the final set. Milos Raonic returned to play two games to finish off Lorenzo Giustino 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.
Jannik Sinner, 18, won his first match win at a Grand Slam event, beating Australian qualifier Max Purcell 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-4.