Tennis' big stars back in business at Aussie Open

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
MELBOURNE
Published

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka sailed through injury tests at the Australian Open yesterday with focused former champion Maria Sharapova also successfully getting back to business after her drug ban. Twelve-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic has been out of action for six months with an elbow injury, but you wouldn't have known it in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of American Donald Young. Former Melbourne champion Wawrinka also returned from half a year on the sidelines after knee surgery, having only decided he was fit to play at the weekend. With the temperatures heating up, he was pushed to four sets by Ricardas Berankis before prevailing 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) in a tough workout he said was "proud" to come through.

Djokovic, gunning for a seventh Australian Open title, was also glad to be back, having missed the competitive edge. World number one Simona Halep booked her place in round two, avoiding the first round exit that befell her in the past two years. But she made a meal of it against local hope Destanee Aiava. Sharapova, still working her way back from a 15-month ban for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium in Australia in 2016, showed glimpses of the tennis that made her a five-time major winner. The 2008 Melbourne Park champion, now ranked 48, beat Germany's Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 in her first Melbourne match in two years.

"I cherish these moments. I love it here," said the Russian, who returned from her drugs ban last April.

"It's been a couple of years and I wanted it to be really meaningful to me."

Fellow former world number one Angelique Kerber, who won the tournament in 2016, was also impressive in dismissing Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-0, 6-4.

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