2015 Australian Open men's doubles champions Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini were pushed hard in their opening match on the first day of doubles play in Melbourne. The 5th seeds survived in three sets against Mikhail Kukushkin and Rameez Junaid.
Bolelli-Fognini Among Seeds to Advance
The Italians were surprise winners of last year's Australian Open men's doubles title. They began their defense of that title Wednesday. Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini had not paired up yet this year, so there was a definite air of rust about their game early. That allowed Mikhail Kukushkin and Rameez Junaid a chance at a shocking upset. Kukushkin-Junaid survived two early break points as they found their feet in the opening set with both teams exchanging service holds to 3-3. The Italians scuffled in the 7th game as they were broken to fall behind 4-3. Kukushkin-Junaid would be in position to close out the first set at 5-4, but Bolelli-Fognini fought off five set points and secured the break back to stay alive at 5-5. The set would end in a tiebreak with the Italians taking it impressively, 7-1.
The unseeded pair would continue to fight despite blowing the opening set as the second set stayed on serve until the 6th game. Kukushkin-Junaid would get a break of serve to edge ahead 4-2 on their way to a 6-3 set win to even the match. The third set was tight throughout as both teams were stout on serve. In the 8th game, that would change as the 5th seeded Italians scored the decisive break of serve. They would close the match in the next game for a 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 win. The closeness of the match was reflected in the final points tally with both teams winning 97 points each. Bolelli-Fognini advance to round two to play Adrian Mannarino and Lucas Pouille. The French duo beat Victor Estrella Burgos and Santiago Giraldo 6-1, 6-3.
Five other seeded teams were in action on Wednesday. Second seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo had no problems beating Aljaz Bedene and Dustin Brown 6-3, 6-4. Ninth seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock overcame a shaky start as they won their first round match against Alexander Peya and Philipp Petzschner in three sets. The other seeds advancing on Wednesday were (12) Jean-Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah, (13) Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram and (14) Max Mirnyi and Treat Huey.
Wednesday's First Round Men's Results
Groth-Hewitt def. Troicki-Lajovic 406, 2-1 (retired)
Andujar-Carreno Busta def. Albot-Chung 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Bhupahti-Muller def. Bolt-Whittington 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4
Bellucci-Demoliner def. S.Gonzalez-Knowle 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
Haase-Verdasco def. Erlich-Fleming 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Dlouhy-Vesely def. Millman-Duckworth 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3
Nestor-Stepanek def. Hsieh-Yang 6-1, 7-5
S.Johnson-Querrey def. Rosol-Zelenay 6-3, 7-6 (3)
Becker-Thiem def. Lorenzi-Pella 6-3, 7-6 (4)
Elgin-Middlekoop def. Sousa-Mayer 6-3, 2-6, 6-3
Mattek-Sands Opens With New Partner and Victory
Only one of last year's women's doubles champions is taking part in the tournament this year. Bethanie-Mattek Sands won the 2015 title with Lucie Safarova, but the Czech is out of the tournament this year due to health issues. That left Mattek-Sands to find a new partner. She chose Sabine Lisicki. The pair grinded out a three set win to start their campaign on Wednesday 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. They played a go for broke style that netted them 42 winners and 26 unforced errors against Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Paula Kania. Mattek-Sands and Lisicki now await their opponent in round two. It will be either 8th seeds Andreja Klepac and Lara Arruabarrena or the Rodionova sistsers, Alina and Anastasia, from Australia.
WTA Seeds Survive
Elsewhere, 7th seeded Czechs Lucia Hradecka and and Andrea Hlavackova were among the seeds to win in their first round matches. The Czechs advanced in a three set match against Shuko Aoyama and Makoto Ninomiya 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1. The home hopes of Australia got a boost from the 11th seeded pairing of Samantha Stosur and Yaroslava Shvedova. The 11th seeds eliminated Alexandra Dulgheru and Silvia Soler-Espinosa 7-6 (3), 6-3. Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova opened with a straight sets win against Chia-Jung Chuang and Olga Govortsova 7-6 (6), 6-4. The 13th seeds were a bit sloppy as they were broken six times, but managed seven breaks against their opponents. Coco Vandeweghe and Anna-Lena Groenefeld took down Annika Beck and Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 7-6 (6). Vandeweghe and Groenefeld survived ten double faults. The 16th seeds were the lone upset victims on Wednesday. British youngsters Johanna Konta and Heather Watson pulled off the upset of Garbiela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska 6-1, 7-6 (7). Dabrowski-Rosolska struggled mightily as they combined for 11 double faults and gave Konta-Watson 15 break chances. The Brits would convert on six of those chances.
Wednesday's First Round Women's Results
L.Kichenok-N.Kichenok def. Birrell-Hon 6-4, 6-3
M.Sanchez-Vogt def. Jurak-Melichar 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (1)
J.Rae-A.Smith def. Liang.Peng 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (2)
Bonaventure-Olaru def. Jankovic-Petkovic 6-4, 6-4
J.Moore-S.Sanders def. Perez-Woolcock 6-4, 6-2
Keys-Tomljanovic def. Husarova-Schmieddlova 6-3, 6-4
Kasatkina-Kovinic def. Brengle-Maria 5-7, 6-4, 6-3
Krejcikova-Wang def. Van Uytvanck-Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3
K. Bondarenko-Savchuk def. Cornet-Linnette 6-4, 6-0
Lucic-Baroni-Strycova def. Barthel-Siegemund 7-6 (4), 6-1
More first round action is scheduled on Thursday. Among the highlights on the men's side, top seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau begin their Australian Open campaign against Sergiy Stakhovsky and Martin Klizan. The third seeded Bryan Brothers open play against Chris Guccione and Andre Sa with 4th seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea starting against electric Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Omar Jasika. On the women's side, all eyes will be on the number one seeds. Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis carry their 30 match win streak in round one against Mariana Duque-Mariño and Teliana Pereira.