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Comebacks, controversy and wombat meat at the Australian Open

Former Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova made her return to the tournament on 16 January 2018.
Former Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova made her return to the tournament on 16 January 2018. Reuters/Max Rossi

Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer all made it to the second round of the tournament in Melbourne on Tuesday.


In her first appearance at the Australian Open since serving a 15-month doping ban, former champion Maria Sharapova wore down Germany’s Tatjana Maria in straight sets.

“I've got shivers, so it means a lot to me,” the 30-year-old Russian said in a post-match interview on the court.

“There’s so much for that I play for than just myself and so many fans that come out from all over the world and watch in the middle of the night and thank you.”

Uncertainty for Halep after ankle injury

Also in the women’s tournament, world number one Simona Halep had to fight back from 3-1 down against local teenager Destanee Aiava before rescuing the tiebreak.

The Romanian top seed claimed a comfortable victory in the second set, ending 7-6, 6-1, but not before being shaken up by an ankle injury.

“I just want to wait for tomorrow to see how I wake up. From my experience, I feel that is nothing broken, but still the pain was big. I have to see with the doctors,” Halep told a press conference after the match.

“I don't believe that I will stop. But, the priority is always the health. So I will see. In my opinion, I will be able to play.”

Controversy over Djokovic reports

Novak Djokovic got off to a good start with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over American Donald Young.

But the Serb’s win was clouded by controversy following a media report that he had gathered men’s players about forming a union to lobby for more prize money on the eve of the tournament.

“I saw that you've portrayed me as someone who is very greedy, asks for more money and wants to boycott,” Djokovic told reporters after the match. “But not much of what you have wrote is true.”

“We get together, a hundred players get together two or three times in a whole year,” he continued. “We wanted to use this opportunity to speak about certain subjects […] There was no decisions being made. There was no talks about boycott or anything like that.”

Federer vs Ferrell

Roger Federer breezed past Aljaz Bedene in three sets.

But the defending champ but faced a whole different challenge after the match when American comedian Will Ferrell stepped out the crowd to interview him in character as his fictional TV anchor Ron Burgundy.

A smiling and somewhat bewildered Federer nodded along to questions like “you seemed like a gazelle out there on the court, would you describe your game as a silky gazelle?” and “there’s a rumour going around […] that the secret to your success is you only eat wombat meat. Is that true?”

But the Swiss star held his own all the same.

“I know how much this crowd means to you, they’re an amazing crowd,” Ferrell asked. “But does it get annoying when they just scream ‘come on Roger’ over and over again?”

“They remind me of my own name,” the 36-year-old replied. “At an older age, you can start forgetting your own name sometimes, so it’s great.”


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