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Australian Open: Ladies hold court during a rainy day

On a day when play was temporarily suspended because of rain, and the roofs on the three stadiums at Melbourne Park had to be closed, the early matches Thursday at the Australian Open featured several of the leading women’s players.

The session’s first match at Rod Laver Arena yielded a 6-4, 6-1 victory for sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine over Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.

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At Melbourne Arena, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic kicked things off with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Madison Brengle of the U.S.

Pliskova, seeded seventh, broke Brengle’s serve six times in seven chances after dropping the opening set. She also had seven aces and 14 service winners.

“Some breaks, some good tennis, and some bad mistakes from me too,” Pliskova said.

Madison Keys, who is seeded 17th, fared better than her fellow American on the same court, beating Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-3, 6-4.

Fourth-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia at Margaret Court Arena.

Osaka recovered a service break in the second set and, at 4-4, broke Zidansek’s service to love. Osaka hit an ace to save a break point in the last game and clinched it on her second match point with a service winner.

“I served pretty well. I got broken twice, but she was a really great opponent, and this was my first time playing her,” said Osaka, the 2018 U.S. Open women’s champion.

Also advancing in the women’s draw were 12th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium, who beat Margarita Gasparyan of Russia in straight sets, and 13th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who defeated qualifier Bianca Andreescu of Canada.

The men’s second round featured eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan withstanding 59 aces from Ivo Karlovic of Croatia before winning 6-3, 7-6 (6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (7).

“That’s almost my one year of aces,”Nishikori said, jokingly. “It’s never easy. It’s kind of frustrating … but I think I focused well. Third and fourth set was really tough. I lost two easy games and had to reload in the fifth set.”

Nishikori isn’t making it easy on himself in the tournament after losing the first two sets of his first-round match and allowing Karlovic to get back into their match.

Canadian Milos Raonic, seeded 16th, outlasted Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (11), 7-6 (5) in a 4-hour 2-minute marathon.

Raonic, the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2016, hit 39 aces and barely made it through.

Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam event winner, was two points away from taking the second set, held three set points in the third and was two points away from forcing a fifth while ahead 5-4 in what would turn out to be the last tiebreaker.

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In Wednesday’s late matches, second-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain beat Australian Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and second-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany defeated qualifier and Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-2, 6-3.

Nadal moved to No. 3 for most men’s victories at the Open in the professional era, and extended his record of never losing a second-round match at Melbourne Park.

The Spaniard has won 57 matches at the Open, surpassing Swede Stefan Edberg’s mark of 56 victories.

Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia hold the top two spots with 96 and 62 victories, respectively.

The top-ranked Djokovic played a night match Thursday, as did top-seeded Simona Halep of Romania and Serena Williams of the U.S. in the women’s draw.

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