5 must-watch matches in the Australian Open first round

Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent
·2-min read

The first grand slam matches of 2021 will be played on Monday as the Australian Open gets under way in Melbourne.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five eye-catching round one clashes.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka faces a tricky first-round tie
Naomi Osaka faces a tricky first-round tie (Andy Brownbill/AP)

US Open champion Osaka is the title favourite but on paper this is a very tricky opener. Russian Pavlyuchenkova has never quite lived up to her junior promise but has been a top-40 player for a decade and her recent record in Melbourne is superb, with three quarter-finals in the last four years.

Denis Shapovalov v Jannik Sinner

Denis Shapovalov is facing another of the sport's fast-rising stars
Denis Shapovalov is facing another of the sport’s fast-rising stars (Hamish Blair/AP)


This should be a cracker between two of the most exciting young players in the men’s game. Shapovalov is no longer a new face but is still only 21 and much bigger things are expected. Nineteen-year-old Italian Sinner, meanwhile, is heading for the top at breakneck speed.

Leylah Fernandez v Elise Mertens

Elise Mertens faces an up-and-coming talent
Elise Mertens faces an up-and-coming talent (Andy Brownbill/AP)


Eighteen-year-old Fernandez is another bright young talent to emerge from Canada. She has already reached the third round of the French Open and will hope to prove a difficult opponent for 18th seed Mertens, who is a former semi-finalist in Melbourne and has been in good from this week.

Kei Nishikori v Pablo Carreno Busta

Kei Nishikori is involved in an exciting first-round opener
Kei Nishikori is involved in an exciting first-round opener (Andy Brownbill/AP)


Carreno Busta is among the more low key members of the men’s top 20 but at 29 he is playing his best tennis and will hope for a strong run here having twice reached the US Open semi-finals. Nishikori is still working his way back following elbow surgery in 2019 but remains one of the sport’s great movers.

Dan Evans v Cameron Norrie

The odds were low that Britain’s only two representatives in the men’s singles would draw each other. Evans goes in as favourite, especially given his excellent form this week, but Norrie won their last meeting at the Battle of the Brits in December and has also started the season well.