First smoke, now rain as Australian Open struggles with weather

Rain is wreaking havoc with the year's first major tennis tournament after air quality issues from wildfires impacted qualifying play earlier.
Image: Tennis - Australian Open - First Round
Rain falls on Day One of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday.Hannah Mckay / Reuters

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By David K. Li

The Australian Open is struggling to hit a winner against an agitated Mother Nature.

After severe air quality issues brought by smoke from massive wildfires made qualifying play difficult last week, rain is wreaking havoc with the year's first major tennis tournament.

While rain across some portions of Australia have brought some relief from the fires, storms have brought new flood fears.

For those Australians safe from disaster, enjoying the welcomed distraction of Down Under's premiere tennis tourney has proven to be a challenge.

Mops and squeegees seemingly outnumbered rackets on Monday as nine matches had to be suspended while 23 others were all together postponed by heavy rainfall on Monday, Day 1 of the famous competition.

Clear skies and temperatures approaching 70 degrees are forecast for Tuesday in Melbourne but the schedule makers will have to make up for all of those rain-delayed matches from Monday.

Play Tuesday in Melbourne begins at 10:30 a.m. AEDT, or 6:30 p.m. EST Monday.

The three venues at Melbourne Park — Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena — have roofs, so many of the marquee matches were able to be played on Monday.

Venus Williams, right, congratulates Cori "Coco" Gauff after Gauff won their first-round singles match at the Australian Open on Monday.Dita Alangkara / AP

Under the roof of Margaret Court Arena, 15-year-old Coco Gauff defeated her childhood idol Venus Williams, 39, in their first-round match, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Gauff made headlines this past summer when she downed Williams at Wimbledon.

Venus Williams' younger sister, Serena Williams, had no issues on Monday, dispatching Anastasia Potapova in a 58-minute straight set win. The seven-time Australian Open singles champion said she was happy to see no smoke on Monday, after the bad air of last week.

“Today, it seemed normal,” Williams said after her first-round victory. “Yeah, it seemed pretty good.”

Native Californian Sam Querrey scored a straight-set win over No. 25-seeded Borna Coric outside before showers arrived on Monday. The Croatian Coric joked that he wished he could have blamed poor air quality for his performance on Monday.

“To be honest, I didn't feel any difference. I can understand some players do feel it, and I respect that. For me,” he said, “I was more bothered by my forehand and my serve than with the air quality.”

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki celebrates after her victory against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. during their women's singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan. 20, 2020.David Gray / AFP - Getty Images

In another notable action on Monday, Caroline Wozniacki won the first match of her final pro tournament.

The 2018 Australian Open champion and former No. 1 defeated New Jersey native Kristie Ahn, 6-1, 6-3.

The 29-year-old Wozniacki, who announced last month she'd retire after the Australian Open, said she had to fight emotion knowing the end of her career is so close at hand.

“Once in a while, you're, like, ‘Wow, this really is my last one,'” Wozniacki said.

Associated Press contributed.