From Serena Williams’ one-leg catsuit to Bianca Andreescu’s happy tears. From Nick Kyrgios showboating a tweener drop-shot winner no less, to the 19-year-old Jannik Sinner giving the 21-year-old Denis Shapovalov a scare. A five-set battle that refused to fade into the night until the 11th seed punctuated the encounter with a winner.
As if Serena’s pink, black and orange ensemble, that spelt iconic, needed company, the 39-year-old produced jaw-dropping fare to notch up her 100th Australian Open match win for the loss of two games, one in each set against Laura Siegemund.
Serena said her outfit was inspired by the late track queen Florence Griffith Joyner, who made the one-leg bodysuit right leg extending to the ankle and the left cut off her signature in the late 80s.
Serena tweaked the outline by regulating the asymmetrical style on the left. “Flo-Jo’s fashion was always changing, her outfits were amazing,” the 23-time major winner said of her inspiration.
For about half an hour after the 20-year-old Andreescu walked on court, it looked like she was picking up from where she left off yesterday. Form and fashion. In her last Grand Slam match, the final of the 2019 US Open, she stopped Serena while sporting a purple and black combine. Those were her colours again in Melbourne on Monday, where she rose in stirring style before winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 over Romanian lucky loser Mihaela Buzarnescu.
After beating Serena in New York to cap an inspiring 2019 season, which she started with a ranking of No. 178 and finished at No. 4, the Canadian, waylaid by a meniscus tear, couldn’t compete in 2020.
Andreescu came up with a daring mixed bag, balancing pace with the poise spin inevitably brings into the production. Playing to the tune of electronic line calls, with no challenges, the Canadian used her single-handed slice for reach, a shift in step or to buy time. She also came up with some daring drop shots, pulling a reluctant Buzarnescu into the court.
Buzarnescu, 32, has battled her share of injuries, which saw her ranking slip from a career-high No. 20 (in August 2018) to her present position of 138. After a battling hold in the six-minute fourth game when Andreescu had a couple of chances to break, Buzarnescu switched her court position, standing further back and using her opponent’s pace for placement. She then broke in the fifth game.
The eighth seed looked significantly slower in the decider, the 15 months of no competition, along with the two weeks of hard quarantine, beginning to reflect in her play. At 0-40 on her serve with the scoreboard at three games apiece, the 20-year-old won seven points on the trot, stringing three successive games to move into the second round at Melbourne Park where the tricky Hsieh Su-Wei awaits her.
Andreescu struggled to control her tears after the two-hour opener.
“Last night I cried, I was thinking about the last 15 months and how tough they were,” she said, adding she was nervous coming into her first-round match. “They were tough for many reasons, my knee injury, being ready to play Indian Wells, Miami (in March last year) and then Covid hitting. Personal issues as well. It wasn’t easy, but I got through them.”
There were different kinds of tears too on the day. Frenchman Gael Monfils, the tenth seed, broke down following his seventh successive loss, this time to 21-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6. Former champion Angelique Kerber fell 0-6, 4-6 to Bernarda Pera in a match where for the first eight games it looked like the German’s morning alarm never rang. The 33-year-old, who along with Andreescu was among the 72 players locked in hard quarantine, was hampered by the inaction. Kerber said had she known the ‘real situation’, she would’ve thought twice about heading Down Under.