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Australian Open tennis: Carlos Alcaraz cruises to first-round victory

Carlos Alcaraz (pictured Tuesday in Melbourne) of Spain needed just 2 hours, 22 minutes to dispatch unseeded Richard Gasquet of France in the first round of the Australian Open. Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE
1 of 6 | Carlos Alcaraz (pictured Tuesday in Melbourne) of Spain needed just 2 hours, 22 minutes to dispatch unseeded Richard Gasquet of France in the first round of the Australian Open. Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE

Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who missed the 2023 Australian Open due to an abdominal injury, cruised to victory in his return to Melbourne, beating Richard Gasquet in straight sets in the first round of the 2024 Grand Slam.

Alcaraz totaled nine aces and broke Gasquet's serve four times in the 7-6(5), 6-1, 6-2 win Tuesday in Melbourne.

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"It's always great to play here in Australia," Alcaraz said on the ESPN broadcast. "This is the third time that I'm playing here. I didn't have a good run the years that I played here, but I enjoyed it a lot and I missed it last year.

"Today, I felt really good playing here, and I enjoyed [being] in front of the crowd. I tried to get better. I think in the first set I struggled a little bit with his game and Richard was playing great as well. Every set, I played better and better, and in the end, I think I played at quite a good level."

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Alcaraz, the No. 2 seed, will face Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the second round. The winner of that match will battle Juncheng Shang of China or Sumit Nagal of India in the third round.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, No. 3 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, No. 4 Jannik Sinner of Italy, No. 5 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 8 Holger Rune of Denmark, No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and No. 10 Alex de Minaur of Australia were among the other top men to advance in the first round.

That round lasted three days for the first time in the tournament history.

No. 12 Taylor Fritz, No. 16 Ben Shelton, No. 17 Frances Tiafoe and No. 29 Sebastian Korda were the top-ranked American men to advance.

No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 3 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and Americans Coco Gauff (No. 4) and Jessica Pegula (No. 5) were the top women to advance.

Unseeded Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine upset No. 7 Marketa Vondrousova in her first-round match. American Amanda Anisimova also pulled off an upset, beating No. 13 Liudmila Samsonova in straight sets.

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No. 16 Caroline Garcia of France ousted Naomi Osaka of Japan in straight sets. That was Osaka's first appearance in a Grand Slam since she had a pregnancy-related hiatus in 2022.

Gauff, No. 6 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, No. 9 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and No. 10 Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil will be among the top women's players in action Wednesday, local time, at the Australian Open. Match coverage start Tuesday night in the United States, as Melbourne is 16 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Sinner, de Minaur, Fritz, Shelton and Tiafoe will be among the top men in action.

Second-round coverage will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN+ and 9 p.m. EST on ESPN2. The women's singles final will air at 3:30 a.m. Jan. 27 on ESPN. The men's final will air at 3:30 a.m. Jan. 28 on ESPN.

The men's and women's singles champions will receive about $2.1 million for winning the 15-day Grand Slam tournament.

21 moments from U.S. Open champ Coco Gauff's rise in tennis

Coco Gauff of the United States raises her trophy after defeating Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to win the Women's U.S. Open Tennis Championship at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Forest Hills, N.Y., on September 9, 2023. Graff won in three sets, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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