MELBOURNE: Australians Sam Stosur and Daria Gavrilova had contrasting fortunes in their first matches at home after long absences Sunday in the first round of the Yarra Valley Tennis Classic at Melbourne Park.
Stosur, playing her first competitive match since March and now ranked 112, lost 6-2, 6-0 to 16th seeded Czech Marie Bouzkova in just over one hour.
The 2011 U.S. Open champion took a break from tennis in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the birth of her first child. She didn’t hit a ball for two and a half months before returning to the training court in September, beginning to work towards next month’s Australian Open.
Stosur hasn’t made any firm plans for the coming year but said she hopes to play all four Grand Slams.
“It’s about getting through the Aussie summer and then after that it is hard to know, given we are still going to need to quarantine if we want to come home," Stosur said. “It makes it tough to make a schedule given the family circumstances now.
"Ten years ago I’d jump on a plane and not come back for a year but I am not in a position to do that at the moment.”
Gavrilova, ranked 451 and playing as a wildcard, won her first match on home soil since 2019, easing past Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova 6-2, 6-0.
The 26-year-old made a return at WTA level at last year’s French Open after missing a full year with injury. She will face 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the second round after Williams had a first round bye.
“I’ve seen her training on Instagram,” Gavrilova said in a courtside interview. “She doesn’t look rusty at all.”
Venus Williams, the oldest player in the tournament at 40, took only 65 minutes to beat Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-3 in her first round match.
Australia’s World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty had a first round bye in the singles but combined with Jennifer Brady of the United States to win her doubles opener.
“It’s exciting for all of tennis to be back and getting a few matches hopefully under my belt before (the Australian Open) starts would be good," Barty said. “It’s an adjustment, but come the Australian Open the crowds will be here and there’s going to be a really nice vibe.”
Former Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins of the United States, seeded 13th, beat Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3, 6-3 in just over 75 minutes. Fellow American Shelby Rogers joined Collins in the second round with 6-2, 7-5 win over No.12 seed Fiona Ferro.
The Yarra Valley Classic and the Gippsland Open, being played concurrently at Melbourne Park, are the first WTA tournaments of the season for most players who have just emerged from quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.
More than 1,000 players and officials went into a two-week quarantine from Jan. 14 when the first of 17 flights chartered by Tennis Australia landed in Melbourne and Adelaide.
The 2017 French Open champion Jelana Ostapenko of Latvia, seeded 13th, beat Sara Errani of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in a first round match between former top-5 ranked players in the Gippsland Trophy.
Ostapenko, currently ranked 45 and one of four Grand Slam champions in the draw, needed 1 hour, 46 minutes to win her first match of the season. She also posted her maiden win over Errani who was seeking her first win over a top-50 player since April, 2018. Errani, now ranked 131, beat Ostapenko in their only previous meeting at the 2015 US Open.
Ostapenko took time to add accuracy to her power game but eventually hit 56 winners.
Caroline Garcia of France, seeded 12th, launched her season with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Australian wildcard Arina Rodionova.
"It was a lot of emotions to get back on court, finally,” Garcia said. “I tried to stay very calm and play one point at a time and I think I improved during the match so that’s the most positive thing about today.”
Kaia Kanepi of Estonia fought back from the brink of defeat to beat another Australian wildcard, Astra Sharma, 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 after being two points from defeat at 1-6, 3-5.