UPDATE 6.40pm: American James Blake made a winning return to the Australian Open today, scoring a straight sets victory over Romanian Marius Copil in round one of the men’s qualifying singles.
It was Blake’s first visit to Melbourne Park since 2010, but he looked at home as he won 6-4 6-4 on Show Court 3.
Blake, a former world no. 4 and Australian Open quarter finalist in 2008, was relieved with the victory.
“It was the first match of the year for me, so happy to get through especially in straight sets,” Blake said. “Today’s conditions were tough out here with that wind. I think wind is much tougher than any sort of heat or cold. Any win in the wind is a good one.”
The win sets up a blockbuster all-American clash with 2012 Olympian Donald Young.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Blake said. “He’s a great player. He’s got me once and I’ve gotten him a couple of times. When he is on, he can be really, really difficult.”
Young, who had a 6-3, 6-4 win against Aldin Stekvic of Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier today, knows Blake will pose a challenge.
“It’ll be tough. We’ve gone back and forth a few times and they’ve always been tough matches,” Young said.
Young is coming off a disappointing 2012 season, where he dropped from a career-high ranking of 38 in February to finish the year at 190. He is hoping to qualify at the Australian Open and begin his climb back to the upper echelon of the game.
“I’m putting 2012 behind me, it wasn’t good at all. I’m looking forward to 2013 and bigger and better things,” Young said. “It was tough for me today. I didn’t play my best tennis but I’m glad to get through it and into the next round.”
Another American trying to climb back up the rankings is Ryan Sweeting. A herniated disc in his back kept Sweeting off court for two months in 2012, seeing his ranking drop from the 60s to the 140s.
The No.21 seed made a winning start to his 2013 Australian Open campaign, beating fellow American Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-2.
“I’m finally back at 100 per cent,” Sweeting said. “My goal is to get back to that and then into the top 50. “
Sweeting battled overcast conditions to win one of the first matches of the day.
“It was tough conditions today, it’s a little chilly, which we’re not really used to that down here in Australia, and on top of that it was windy,” Sweeting said. “It was tough to really swing through the ball and get a good rhythm.”
Sweeting next meets Australian teen Jordan Thompson, who beat France’s Nicolas Renavand 4-6, 6-2, 9-7.
The news wasn’t so good for rising American talent Jack Sock, who was forced to retire with an ankle injury in his round one match against Chile’s Paul Capdeville.
Sock, the No.26 seed, was one set up when he injured his ankle.
His explosive power was on show early, using his serve and forehand to dictate play and keep the more experienced Capdeville on the back foot.
After an injury time-out, Sock kept fighting, pushing the second set into a tiebreak.
Limited movement was forcing Sock to be aggressive but unforced errors were his downfall in the tiebreak.
Capdeville capitalised, evening the match. Sock tried to push through the pain, but retired 3-1 down in the final set.
Capdeville’s 6-7(4), 7-6(1), 3-1 ret. victory earnt him a second round match against Czech Jan Hernych.
Other winners so far in round one action today include Austrian top seed Andreas Haider-Maurer and second-seeded Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.