The opening day of the 2017 Australian Open saw crowds flocking to Melbourne Park for the first Grand Slam of the year.

Play began at 11 a.m. but Genie Bouchard fans had to wait almost 12 hours to see their favourite because her evening match with Louisa Chirico followed a five-set Stan Wawrinka – Martin Klizan extravaganza on Margaret Court Arena.

Once the match finally started Bouchard wasted little time in taking charge. Playing at an aggressive tempo from the get-go, she simply overwhelmed the No. 65-ranked American.

It took a mere 18 minutes for Bouchard to wrap up the first set on her way to a resounding 6-0, 6-4 opening-round victory.

Chirico settled in the second set but Bouchard never trailed after the 20-year-old American finally held serve to lead 1-0. From Westchester, N.Y.,  Chirico showed some of her potential in the second set as Bouchard lost a bit of her edge after such a one-sided start.

The match was like the reverse of Bouchard’s experience in her previous match – the semifinals in Sydney last week when Johanna Konta beat her 6-2, 6-2, which she herself later described as a “whupping.”  This time it was all about her relentlessly outhitting her opponent. All the stats in the 55-minute encounter were in Bouchard’s favour, but one stood out – she won 76 per cent of her second serve points while Chirico could only manage 25 per cent.

The commentators on Channel 7 in Australia made a couple of remarks about Bouchard’s outfit, which frequently revealed her navel, joking that it looked like her Nike clothiers “had run out of material.”

The win by Bouchard sets up a second-round match on Wednesday against No. 83-ranked Peng Shuai. The 31-year-old Chinese has struggled with injury but has moved her ranking up from No. 664 in Miami in March 2016, to its current No. 83. Last fall Peng won the WTA event in Tianjin over No. 56-ranked Alison Riske as well as a $100,000 Challenger tournament in Shenzhen and also had a win over No. 13-ranked Venus Williams in Beijing.

She had an impressive 6-0, 7-6(5) victory on Monday over fast-rising Russian Daria Kasatkina, who upset Angelique Kerber last week in Sydney and had match point on Garbiñe Muguruza the previous week in Brisbane.

The crafty Peng plays two-handed on both sides and is probably best remembered for reaching the 2014 US Open semifinals and then suffering debilitating on-court cramps during her match against Caroline Wozniacki.

She had back surgery in 2015 and has only recently managed to regain the form that took her as high as No. 14 in singles in 2011 and No. 1 in doubles in 2014.

In her only meeting with Bouchard, at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in 2014, Bouchard dominated 6-2, 6-2.

Asked about that match after her win on Monday, Peng smiled and said, “it was a long time ago, she beat me really easy.” She added still smiling, “I’m going to try this time.”

Bouchard’s fine play the past two weeks may be attributed to reuniting with coach Thomas Hogstedt, with whom she worked for about two months in February and March last year.

“I’m happy that we kind of continued as if we’d never stopped in a way,” Bouchard said Sunday about her rapport with the former top-40 player from Sweden. “I appreciate so much that he is working with me and I really value everything he says, so I’ll follow everything he suggests or advises me to do. He believes so much and I believe as well, so it’s a good match.”

A year ago at Melbourne Park, Bouchard lost in the second round to Agnieszka Radwanska, so she certainly has an opportunity to begin to improve on that with a win over Peng on Wednesday.


Milos Raonic begins his seventh Australian Open on Tuesday playing the second match on Margaret Court Arena (about 1 p.m. in Melbourne, approx 9 p.m. ET Monday in Canada) against No. 66-ranked Dustin Brown of Germany.

Raonic beat the 32-year-old German 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the 2016 US Open in their only previous meeting.

Brown is playing in his third Australian Open and has yet to win a match, or even a set – losing in the opening round 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to Grigor Dimitrov in 2015 and in the first round of qualifying last year 6-3, 6-3 to Denis Novak of Austria.

Raonic has a 19-6 record at the Australian Open and reached the semifinals (a five-set loss to Andy Murray) a year ago.

He will be playing his first tournament with 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek (on right above) on board as coach along with Riccardo Piatti (on left), who’s into his third year with Raonic. “There’s virtually no difference,” Raonic said distinguishing between the two. “Richard is going to be doing mostly tournaments with me, where he’s going to help me getting the best out of myself. Riccardo is more doing the weeks when I sort of go home, doing the training weeks. I think both of them have an equally important role.”

Raonic, who revealed he has lost a bit of weight, talked on Saturday about a couple of instances of not being able to convert leads into victories in 2016 – particularly citing the Queen’s Club final versus Murray and the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals, also against Murray. “The conclusion is,” he said about analyzing those losses, “sometimes I have to take more time. Sometimes I’d veer off what I was doing to get myself to that point. It’s being more disciplined, remembering those things, sort of sticking to that – no hocus pocus.”


After Peter Polansky lost his final qualifying round to Andrey Rublev of Russia on Saturday, he was basically ‘first out’ from a four player lucky losers pool for a spot in the main draw after Aussie wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis pulled out with an abdominal injury. Polansky needed one more player ranked ahead of him to win (and NOT become another lucky loser) and not take his place when the chips (or chip) were picked out to determine the ultimate lucky loser. Happily for him, Ernesto Escobedo of the U.S. came back from a set down to win his final-round match, making Polansky one of four players with a shot. Fortuitously, his name wound up being pulled out so he got into the seventh Grand Slam main draw of his career. His only match win came back in 2010 when he defeated No. 32-ranked Juan Monaco of Argentina at the US Open.

Polansky earned $25,000 AUS for losing in the final round of the qualifying but he now has to forfeit that money, but does get a guarantee of at least $50,000 – first-round losers’ prize money in the main draw.

On Tuesday he’ll play the No. 30 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in an opening-round match on Court 19, the same court where he played his last two qualifying matches.

When the new ATP rankings came out on Monday, Polansky was at No. 132, three spots ahead of Vasek Pospisil who is at No. 135. That makes him Canada’s second highest-ranked player behind No. 3 Milos Raonic.


Daniel Nestor and partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France will play their opening round of doubles against two Argentines – Andres Molteni (No. 54) and Diego Schwartzman (No. 118). Nestor (No. 15) and Roger-Vasselin (No. 17) are the eighth seeds and could face the 11th seeds Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer in the third round and the top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the quarter-finals.

The Franco/Canadian duo had a 10-match winning streak snapped two weeks ago when they were beaten in the Brisbane semifinals by Aussie wild cards Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson.

In the first round, the top-seeded Herbert and Mahut with face Adil Shamasdin (No. 67) of Pickering, Ont., and his French partner Adrian Mannarino.

Vasek Pospisil, No. 18, and Radek Stepanek, No. 35, are seeded 12th and take on Aussie wild cards Matthew Barton and Matthew Ebden in the first round and could face the third-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan in the third round.

In women’s doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and partner Michaella Krajicek (half sister of Milos Raonic’s new coach) of the Netherlands start out against Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia and Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia and might meet seventh seeds Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova in round two.


Denis Shapovalov, the reigning Wimbledon junior champion, is at the Australian Open along with Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau.

Shapovalov, 17, just outside the entry cut-off for the Aussie Open qualifying, played a Challenger event in Canberra, the Australian capital city, last week. He reached the quarter-finals before losing to No. 80-ranked veteran Steve Darcis of Belgium after beating No. 76 Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round. The 15 points he earned have moved his ranking up to a career-high No. 234.

Shapovalov also works with Gunther Bresnik, world No. 8 Dominic Thiem’s coach, and while at Melbourne Park he has been hitting with various players including German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber.


Federation Square is the crossroads of Melbourne situated right across St. Kilda Road from the transportation hub – Flinders Street Station. Last week in Federation Square there was a waterslide set up with lots of kids sloshing down it to their heart’s content.