With Gauff now a top 100 player – and 39-year-old Venus having been a doubt for the tournament with a hip injury – it was far less of a surprise to see the teenager come through 7-6 (5) 6-3 under the roof on Margaret Court Arena.
The young American’s achievements should certainly not be taken for granted, though, and she showed maturity well beyond her years to battle through after nerves kicked in during the first set.
Gauff led 5-3 and had three sets points, while a 5-2 lead in the tie-break also disappeared, but a missed backhand volley from Venus at 5-6 helped her young opponent over the line in the opener.
There were no wobbles in the second, and Gauff said: “That was really difficult, she played really well. I was really nervous for today’s match. I was a bit shocked, I’m sure everybody was shocked, when they saw that draw but I’m really glad to get through it.”
Elsewhere, Serena Williams began her campaign in emphatic fashion with a 6-0 6-3 victory over 18-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova.
The 38-year-old is making her latest bid to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles having lost in four finals since returning to the tour nearly two years ago after the birth of daughter Olympia.
Serena appears particularly determined to make this the one, and she said: “I think it’s factored a lot into my game, and now it’s just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do.
“Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion. And now how great is Serena Williams? That’s it. That’s kind of what I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks and months. It definitely helps me relax a lot.”
Andy Murray isn’t taking part in this year’s Australian Open but there are still plenty of British players who have gained direct entry into the main singles draws.
Although it could be a blessing in disguise for Murray as this year’s championships are set to be a struggle for all involved.
Due to the ongoing wildfires the air quality is clearly not as good as it should be, and it badly affected players during qualifying this week, with one – Dalila Jakupovic – even pulling out of her qualifier as she was struggling to breathe properly.
However, the show must go on and below are six Brits you should look out for Down Under.
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He had to qualify in Melbourne last year and shows what an impressive 12 months he’s had that he goes into this year’s tournament at a career-high ranking of 33.
With his year-long drugs ban now firmly behind him, Evans has added reliability to his obvious talent and competitive grit and remains both a compelling player to watch and one capable of stand-out wins.
Evans led Britain brilliantly at the ATP Cup and enjoys the conditions in Melbourne, reaching the fourth round in 2017, where he claimed the best win of his career against Marin Cilic.
Left out the British team for the Davis Cup finals, Norrie played as the number two behind Evans at the ATP Cup and came away with two victories, albeit against low-ranked players.
The 24-year-old left-hander progressed well last season as he reached his first ATP Tour final in his home city of Auckland and broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time, finishing the year at 53.
This will be Norrie’s second appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park. He lost to American Taylor Fritz on his debut last year.
Having drawn the line under a hugely disappointing 2019, Edmund can hopefully look ahead to what is to come this year with optimism.
Edmund has a new coach in experienced Argentinian Franco Davin and no ranking points to defend until the end of February, which should help him push back towards at least the top 50.
His performances helped Britain get to the Davis Cup semi-finals in November, showing glimpses of a player perhaps potentially even better than the one who made the last four in Melbourne in 2018 and reached the world’s top 15.
She will hope to carry on her brilliant Grand Slam run having reached at least the quarter-finals at the last three tournaments.
However, Konta has not won a match since beating Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round of the US Open in early September, having subsequently called time on her season to address a nagging knee injury.
It remains an issue, and Konta’s only warm-up match was a defeat by Barbora Strycova in Brisbane, but the 28-year-old Sydney native loves the Australian conditions and a high seeding will help with the draw.
Having initially been just outside the ranking cut-off, withdrawals allowed Watson to make it into the main draw for a ninth straight year.
Last season was largely disappointing for her, with a first-round loss to Petra Martic in Melbourne part of an eight-match losing streak.
But Watson finished the year by reaching a fourth WTA Tour final in Tianjin and remains a player capable of strong results.
Watson’s best performance in Melbourne came in 2013, where she reached the third round.
The 23-year-old from Leicestershire is currently ranked down at 317 but has entered what will be her first Grand Slam for a year using a protected mark of 85.
Boulter produced one of the best wins of her career against Ekaterina Makarova in the first round in Melbourne last year but a back injury – suffered in helping Great Britain to their historic Fed Cup victory over Kazakhstan in April – ended up ruling her out for more than six months.
It is a long way back up the rankings but Boulter has a big game and a strong mentality.
Tennis Australia insist its on-site experts had declared the playing environment at Melbourne Park safe enough.
Other players had issues including Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, who left the court during a match against Chinese player You Xiaodi after complaining of a sore chest.
Bouchard returned to play the final set following the medical timeout and went on to win 4-6 7-6 6-1.
Practice sessions were temporarily suspended for the tournament early on Tuesday due to haze caused by the fires.
A statement from Australian Open organisers read: “Further decisions will be made based on onsite data, and in close consultation with our medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from EPA Victoria.
“As always the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans is our priority.”
British no.6 Liam Broady, who lost 6-3 6-0 to Belarus’ Ilya Ivashka, was another who struggled with the conditions.
Broady said: “I would like to think I am properly fit at the moment and after four games I was absolutely gassed.
“At 6-3, 3-0 down, when you are supposed to be relatively fresh, I was bent double and gasping for air. My fitness is one of the best parts of my game but I definitely didn’t feel great.
“This morning it was obviously pretty bad. I warmed up and then I was most surprised by how bad it still was when I was walking out to the court.
“I had been inside from 10 o’clock for three hours and, because they had decided to go ahead, I thought it would have cleared up a lot. You can hardly see the city buildings over there. It is pretty bad.”
Maria Sharapova and German Laura Siegmund also abandoned their matches in the second set while competing at nearby exhibition tournament in Kooyong due to conditions.
The wildfires have been raging for months in both Victoria, where Melbourne is located, and the neighbouring state of New South Wales, leading to Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority warning air quality in the state would range from moderate to hazardous.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said last week he was hopeful the tournament would go ahead but vowed to closely monitor the air quality.
He said: “We have committed substantial extra resources to analysis, monitoring and logistics to ensure the health and safety of all players, staff and fans throughout the summer and have no other plans to move events (following the cancellation of an event in Australia’s capital Canberra).
“Assessing the likelihood of smoke-induced interruptions is a bit like how we treat heat and rain.
“We have experts who analyse all available live data as specific to our sites as possible and consult regularly with tournament officials and, in the case of heat and smoke, medical experts.
“We have access to real-time monitoring of air quality at all of our venues and are working closely with medical personnel and local experts onsite to ensure we have the best possible information available to make any decisions regarding whether play should be halted at any point.
“The health of players, fans and staff is a priority at all times and we will continue to make these decisions with that in mind.”
The Australian Open tournament proper is due to start on Monday January 20.
Lewis Hamilton has donated more than £260,000 to support fire and animal rescue services working in the Australian bushfire crisis.
The Formiula One champions is concerned about the fires’ devastating effect on wildlife and the continuing impact of climate change.
Huge parts of south-east Australia have been ravaged by fires with 27 people killed and more than 2,000 homes destroyed.
The 35-year-old Mercedes driver wrote on Instagram: “It saddens me deeply to know that over 1 billion animals in Australia died a painful death, no way out, not their fault.
“My love of animals is no secret and I can’t help but grieve for the defenceless animals thought to have died so far, pushing certain species closer to extinction.
“I’m lucky enough to visit Australia often and I know first-hand how beautiful the country is. Keep fighting Australia. I’ve spent some time speaking to people in Australia who are working at the heart of this and I’m filled with admiration for everything they are doing.
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“I implore you to join me in thinking about the impact we are having on our planet. Let’s work together to make small changes, and encourage our family and friends to do the same, so we can help shift the direction we’re going in.”
Hamilton added that he has donated 500,000 Australian dollars (£262,000) to WIRES Wildlife Rescue, WWF Australia and the Rural Fire Services.
A number of other sports stars have also donated or pledged to raise funds, including Nick Kyrgios, Shane Warne and Neil Robertson.
3-7: Cricket Second Test, Cape Town: South Africa vs England
4-6: FA Cup third round
5: Women’s FA Cup third round
7-8: Carabao Cup semi-final first legs – Man United vs Man City, Leicester City vs Aston Villa
16-20: Cricket Third Test, Port Elizabeth: South Africa vs England
19: UFC 246. Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone
20 – 2 February: Tennis. Australian Open
23-26: Golf Dubai Desert Classic
24-27: FA Cup fourth round
24-28: Cricket Fourth Test, Johannesburg: South Africa vs England
26: UFC Fight Night. Blaydes vs Dos Santos
26: Women’s FA Cup fourth round
26: WWE Royal Rumble
28-29: Carabao Cup, semi-final second legs
30: Rugby League Super League season begins
1-2: Six Nations begins. Wales vs Italy, Ireland vs Scotland, France vs England
2: Super Bowl
4: Cricket First ODI, Cape Town: South Africa vs England
7: Cricket Second ODI, Durban: South Africa vs England
8-9: Six Nations. Ireland vs Wales, Scotland vs England, France vs Italy
9: UFC 247. Jones vs Reyes
9: Cricket Third ODI, Johannesburg: South Africa vs England
12: Cricket First T20i, East London: South Africa vs England
14: Cricket Second T20i, Durban: South Africa vs England
16: Cricket Third T20i, Centurion: South Africa vs England
16: Women’s FA Cup fifth round
16: UFC Fight Night. Anderson vs Blachowicz
18-19: Champions League last 16: Borussia Dortmund vs PSG, Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool, Atalanta vs Valencia, Tottenham vs Leipzig
22-23: Italy vs Scotland, Wales vs France, England vs Ireland
22: Boxing. Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury 2 for WBC heavyweight title
20: Europa League last 32: Copenhagen vs Celtic, Wolves vs Espanyol, Rangers vs Braga, Bruges vs Man United, Olympiakos vs Arsenal
23: UFC Fight Night. Felder vs Hooker
25-26: Champions League last 16: Chelsea vs Bayern, Napoli vs Barcelona, Real Madrid vs Man City, Lyon vs Juventus
27: Europa League last 32 second legs
28: Europa League last 16 draw
There are some huge European games to look forward to in February[/caption]
1: Carabao Cup final
1: UFC Fight Night. Benavidez vs Figueiredo
3-6: FA Cup fifth round
7-8: Six Nations. Ireland vs Italy, England vs Wales, Scotland vs France
8: UFC 248
10-13: Cheltenham Festival
10-11: Football Champions League last 16 second legs: Valencia v Atalanta, Leipzig v Spurs, Liverpool v Atletico Madrid, PSG v Borussia Dortmund
12: Football Europa League last 16, first legs
14: Six Nations. Wales vs Scotland, France vs Ireland, Italy vs England
15: Formula One Australian GP
15: Women’s FA Cup quarter-finals
17-18: Champions League, last 16 second legs. Man City v Real Madrid, Juventus v Lyons, Bayern Munich v Chelsea, Barcelona v Napoli
19: Football Europa League, round of 16 second legs
19-23: Cricket First Test, Galle: Sri Lanka v England
20: Football Champions League and Europa League quarter-final and semi-final draws
20-23: FA Cup quarter-finals
22: Formula One: Bahrain GP
24-25: Women’s Champions League quarter-final, first legs, Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona, Lyon vs Bayern Munich, Glasgow City vs Wolfsburg, Arsenal vs PSG
26: European Championship qualifying play-off semi-finals: Bosnia-Herzegovina vs Northern Ireland; Scotland vs Israel; Slovakia vs Republic of Ireland
27: Football friendlies: England vs Italy, Wales vs Austria
27-31: Cricket second Test, Colombo: Sri Lanka vs England
31: European Championship qualifying play-off finals
31: Football friendly: England vs Denmark
1: Women’s Champions League quarter-final, second legs: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg vs Glasgow City, PSG vs Arsenal, Bayern Munich vs Lyon
4: The Grand National
5. WWE Wrestemania
5: Formula One. Vietnamese Grand Prix
7-8: Champions League, quarter-final first legs
9: Europa League, quarter-final first legs
9-12: Golf. The Masters
12-15: Cricket. County Championship first round fixtures
14-15: Champions League quarter-final second legs
16: Europa League quarter-final second legs
18: Snooker. World Championship
19: Formula One. Chinese Grand Prix
25-26: Women’s Champions League semi-final first legs
26: London Marathon
28-29: Champions League semi-final first legs
30: Europa League semi-final first legs
2: Racing. 2000 Guineas
2-3: Women’s Champions League, semi-final second legs
3: Formula 1. Dutch Grand Prix
3: Racing. 1000 Guineas
5-6: Champions League semi-final second legs
7: Europa League semi-final second legs
9: Women’s FA Cup final
9: Giro d’Italia begins
10: Formula 1. Spanish Grand Prix
16: League Two play-off final
17: Final day of the Premier League season
23: FA Cup final
24: League One play-off final
24: Women’s Champions League final
24: Formula 1: Monaco Grand Prix
24: Tennis. French Open begins
25: Championship play-off final
27: Europa League final
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30: Champions League final
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28: Formula 1. French Grand Prix
29: Wimbledon begins
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5: Formula 1. Austrian Grand Prix
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17: Cricket. The Hundred begins
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19: Silverstone. British Grand Prix
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30: Formula 1. Belgian Grand Prix
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6: Formula 1. Italian Grand Prix
10: Cricket First ODI. England vs Ireland
12: Second ODI. England vs Ireland
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Andy Murray says he is “gutted” to miss the 2020 Australian Open after a fresh injury setback.
The 32-year-old was hoping to make his Grand Slam return down under at the start of next year but he has been forced to withdraw due to a pelvis problem.
It was initially thought the issue was minor and would not affect his participation in either the season-opening ATP Cup or the Australian Open.
But alarm bells rang when Murray cancelled his training block in Miami and on Saturday his management company announced the Scot would not be travelling to Australia.
“I’ve worked so hard to get myself into a situation where I can play at the top level and I’m gutted I’m not going to be able to play in Australia in January,” Murray said.
“After the AO this year, when I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to play again, I was excited about coming back to Australia and giving my best, and that makes this even more disappointing for me.
“Unfortunately I’ve had a setback recently and as a precaution, need to work through that before I get back on court competing.”
“I know how excited Andy was about coming back to compete in Australia in January, and how disappointed he is not to make it for 2020,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.
“Andy’s last match at the Australian Open was a five-set rollercoaster that none of us who witnessed it will ever forget. His determination and iron will was on display for all to see, and it’s that fighting spirit that has driven him to come back from a potentially career-ending injury to achieve the results he has this year.
“Although we will miss him in January, we wish him all the very best for his recovery and look forward to seeing him back on court very soon.”
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Murray is now back on court but, given it is still relatively early days in his comeback from hip surgery in January, his team made the decision not to rush his return to competitive tennis.
There will therefore be no emotional return to Melbourne Park a year on from the press conference in which he revealed the extent of his hip problems and contemplated retirement.
A remarkable five-set loss to Roberto Bautista Agut followed in what he accepted could have been the final match of his career.
But two weeks later he underwent hip resurfacing surgery that removed the pain that had dogged him for two years and enabled him to begin a tentative comeback at Queen’s Club in June.
By winning the European Open in Antwerp in October, Murray raised hopes that his days as a contender for the biggest titles may not yet be finished.
But he will not play a match until February at the earliest, with his first tournament now scheduled to be the Open Sud de France in Montpellier beginning on February 2.
Murray’s announcement also means he will not be part of the Great Britain team at the ATP Cup in Australia, which starts on January 3.
Murray qualified Britain for the inaugural edition of the team event through his protected ranking of world number two but Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie will now carry the responsibility in singles.
Britain play group matches against Bulgaria on January 3, Belgium on January 5 and Moldova on January 7, all in Sydney.