MELBOURNE • "Frustrated" fourth seed Simona Halep said yesterday she was struggling with a knee injury as she fell at the first hurdle for the second year in a row at the Australian Open.
The out-of-sorts Romanian, who called for medical attention after losing the first set, went down 6-3, 6-1 to American Shelby Rogers on day one in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena.
Halep was playing the first match of the tournament on the centre court, and she became the first major casualty.
It was a case of deja vu for the right-hander, who was sent packing at the same stage last year by Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai.
Halep is one of the fastest movers on court but she was missing her usual zip against the 24-year-old, who reached the French Open quarter-finals last year.
SELECTED DAY 1 RESULTS
Men's 1st rd: Sam Querrey (USA) bt Quentin Halys (Fra) 6-7 (10-12) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-4, Tomas Berdych (Cze) bt Luca Vanni (Ita) 6-1 retired, Bernard Tomic (Aus) bt Thomaz Bellucci (Bra) 6-2 6-1 6-4. Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Andrey Kuznetsov (Rus) 5-7 6-1 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-2, Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Jerzy Janowicz (Pol) 4-6 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-3, Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Illya Marchenko (Ukr) 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 6-2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) bt Thiago Monteiro (Bra) 6-1 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2, Nick Kyrgios (Aus) bt Gastao Elias (Por) 6-1 6-2 6-2. Stan Wawrinka (Sui) bt Martin Klizan (Slo) 4-6 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4, Roger Federer (Sui) bt Jurgen Melzer (Aut) 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Women's 1st rd: Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Marina Erakovic (Nzl) 7-5 6-4, Shelby Rogers (USA) bt Simona Halep (Rou) 6-3 6-1, Monica Puig (Pri) bt Patricia Tig (Rou) 6-0 6-1, Venus Williams (USA) bt Kateryna Kozlova (Ukr) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5, Kristyna Pliskova (Cze) bt Viktorija Golubic (Sui) 6-3 2-6 6-4, Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Galina Voskoboeva (Kaz) 6-0 6-2, Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) bt Mariana Duque (Col) 6-0 6-1, Angelique Kerber (Ger) bt Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr) 6-2 5-7 6-2, Eugenie Bouchard (Can) bt Louisa Chirico (USA) 6-0, 6-4.
"I had pain at my knee," she said, adding that she first felt the tendon problem in October at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
"For me, in the second set, was difficult to move anymore, but she deserved to win. She was aggressive, and she hit very strong."
Asked about crashing out in the first round once again, she replied: "I'm a bit frustrated, but you cannot change much. I'm OK. Just looking ahead. It happens, and I just want to be well with the knee. And then I will think about the game."
Rogers, in only her second Australian Open main draw appearance, was ecstatic at claiming such a big scalp, having missed last year's tournament to focus on a lower-level ITF Tour event in Florida after injury problems.
"It's pretty incredible, I played really well today," said world No. 52.
"There are no easy matches at this level so I am happy to get through and I take a lot of confidence from today."
She added that making the last eight at Roland Garros had given her the belief that she can beat the top players.
"The biggest thing I took away from that was just that I can compete with the top players in the world and I'm good enough," she said.
"So I have definitely carried that away from the French Open and just been enjoying it a little bit. There has been a lot of positive feedback, which has been nice. I'm just trying to keep that going."
Her reward is a second-round clash against Australian qualifier Ashleigh Barty, who stunned tennis fans more than two years ago when she turned her back on the sport to play top-level cricket.
Barty has since signalled her return with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Germany's Annika Beck yesterday.
Defending champion and top seed Angelique Kerber battled her nerves and faltered badly with victory in sight before finally overcoming Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to reach the second round.
The German will face compatriot Carina Withoeft, who defeated Japan's Eri Hozumi 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
"The first round is always tough. I'm just trying to enjoy it and I'm so, so happy to be in the second round," Kerber said.
"I'm really happy to be back in Melbourne because everything started for me here in 2016."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Day 2: Sessions 1 (8am) & 2 (4pm) Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209