Monday's opening day at the Australian Open was remarkable in its ordinariness. No seeded player lost. The expected happened. Last year's first round was devastating: Three men's seeds and two seeded women were eliminated in the tournament's first two days.
Bad news for the home team came when 12 of its 16 entries lost on the first day. Dire pronouncements about the state of the game here have elicited a gloomy prediction from the last Australian man to win the national championship--Mark Edmondson, who won in 1976. He said he didn't think an Australian would win the tournament again in this century.
Nevertheless, there is much hope for the career of Mark Philippoussis, an 18-year-old wild card who gave sixth-seeded Stefan Edberg a difficult time Monday night. Edberg won, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 7-5.
Edberg said he was relieved to have won, saying the Melbourne teen-ager has a power game that is quite mature.
Asked if Philippoussis hit the ball as hard as it looked, Edberg began to nod immediately. "Yes, I want to make that very clear, he hits the ball very, very, very hard," Edberg said.
Patrick Rafter's victory over Jakob Hlasek today, 6-3, 1-6, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, and Mark Woodforde's win over Arnaud Boetsch, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, buoyed Australian hopes of a good showing.
The first seed to lose was ninth-seeded Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, who was beaten today by Natalia Medvedeva of the Ukraine, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
One Australian who lost in the first round was Pat Cash, the beefy former Wimbledon champion launching yet another comeback. Cash, charming as ever, was offended when asked why after two years of unrelenting injuries, he had not quit the game. "I'm a great player and people want to watch me," he said. "The only reason to quit is if you're scared of losing. I'm not scared to lose."
Charming Australian expression of the day: TOEY. Origin unknown.
Nicole Bradtke explaining how she was out of sorts before the match: "I was a bit toey this morning."