Wawrinka, Nishikori advance to 2nd round at Australia
Melbourne, Australia — Stan Wawrinka began the defense of his Australian Open title with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Marsel Ilhan on Tuesday, taking less than 11/2 hours to breeze through the first round.
Wawrinka was barely tested against the No. 100-ranked Ilhan, striking 34 winners and saving the only two break points he faced.
In a breakthrough 2014 season, Wawrinka claimed his first Grand Slam title, reached a career-high ranking of No. 3 and helped Roger Federer win the Davis Cup for Switzerland for the first time.
He warmed up for the season-opening major by successfully defending his title at the Chennai Open.
"It's great, bringing me a lot of memories from last year," Wawrinka said of his return to Rod Laver Arena. "It was great to come back here feeling happy, happy with my game."
Two other men widely considered to be in the next generation of major winners advanced in straight sets, with No. 5 Kei Nishikori beating Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2 and No. 8 Milos Raonic firing 30 aces in a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-3 win against qualifier Illya Marchenko.
No. 12 Feliciano Lopez struggled past American wild-card entry Denis Kudla 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8, No. 18 Gilles Simon beat Robin Haase 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 19 John Isner beat Taiwanese qualifier Jimmy Wang 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4. No. 16 Fabio Fognini lost in four sets to Alejando Gonzalez.
Nishikori, returning to Grand Slam action for the first time since his run to the U.S. Open final, dropped his opening service game but recovered the break quickly and weathered a difficult opening match against Almagro.
Nishikori is coming off a big year in 2014, when he became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final. He's determined to go one better and win a major.
"Yeah for sure that was one of my best results in my career that gave me a lot of confidence," the Japanese star said. "I beat a lot of top 10 players."
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka continued her comeback from a foot injury with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over Sloane Stephens and will next have to play U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki, who beat 18-year-old Taylor Townsend 7-6 (1), 6-2.
No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova, a finalist here last year, opened with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 comeback win against Kirsten Flipkens.
Limited to nine tournaments last year, Azarenka's ranking has fallen to No. 44 and she is unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2007 U.S. Open.
Her Australian Open history with Stephens included the semifinals in 2013, when Azarenka controversially took an extended injury timeout at a critical point late in the match.
"Sloane is a very tricky opponent. It's a great first round for me to really test my game," Azarenka said. "I'm happy with what I did today."
2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur opened with a 6-4, 6-1 victory against Monica Niculescu, and No. 19 Alize Cornet had a 6-3, 6-2 win over Zhang Shuai. No. 24 Garbine Muguruza and No. 25 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova advanced with straight-sets wins, while Tsvetana Pironkova beat Hobart International champion Heather Watson of Britain 6-4, 6-0.