Australian Open 2016: Omar Jasika, Daria Gavrilova head a day with not much to oi about

Full Nick Kyrgios package wins first roundHewitt v Aussies. Then Larkham. Now Duckworth

The outside courts in an Australian Open’s infancy are no place for outsiders. Andrew Ilie a decade ago and Marinko Matosevic more recently are but two locals who’ve ranted and roared and occasionally ripped clothing to the delight of fans clad in green and gold, brandishing flags and blow-up kangaroos and singing in solid strine but rarely in tune.

Day one of last year’s Open lacked a betting scandal, but at least the odds of seeing an Australian playing tennis were decent. As the temperature climbed on Monday afternoon, spotting a local in action while armed with only a ground pass was akin to landing a 50-1 shot – of 100 players on show court two and beyond, just two had an “Aus” next to their names.

Finding a winner among a packed field is all the more rewarding, and the outpouring of emotion when 18-year-old Melbourne boy Omar Jasika sealed a stirring 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 win on his debut grand slam just before 8.30pm was worthy of the great local hero tales of Opens past.

Many who’d forked out $39 for a ground pass had zeroed in on Nick Kyrgios’ name in the Hisense Arena evening session. Their long and sweaty wait was punctuated by a breezy win for Kei Nishikori and a couple of upsets – Qiang Wang against Sloane Stephens and former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki dumped by Yulia Putintseva.

Those who craved a new hero took block on court seven. Front and centre were the “Omar Army” (complete with hashtag and personalised t-shirts), and of course the Fanatics, declaring their love for Jasika with a zeal and volume as striking as the silence that accompanied every point won by Illya Marchenko, a Ukrainian who must have longed for home.

Short, fair-haired, left-handed and generally antithetical to his mate Kyrgios (save for the silver stud in his left ear), Jasika had shaped as an unlikely day one hero. By the time he broke Marchenko in the fourth set’s seventh game, the home support had rattled the visitor to the point of exasperation.

Family and close mates were in Jasika’s corner too, revelling in an occasion to remember. Their boy boasted a strong apprenticeship, peaking with the rare double of junior singles and doubles titles at last year’s US Open. A wildcard secured his grand slam debut, but Jasika was under no illusions about the difficulty of transitioning to the big boys’ tour.

Last year he played in China, America, Canada, Korea and Japan, but also in Traralgon and Alice Springs. Even with blanket support, Melbourne Park against a top-100 opponent was a whole new ball game. He took it in his ever-lengthening stride.

He hadn’t been burdened with chasing Australia’s first win of AO2016, a feat achieved by another import, Daria Gavrilova, who disposed of Lucie Hradecka 7-6, 6-4 in the opening Margaret Court Arena match of the tournament.

A relationship with Luke Saville lured Gavrilova from Moscow to Melbourne, where she is coached by Nicole Pratt. Dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova awaits. “Oh, another Czech,” she said, rolling her eyes. “She hits a big ball too.”

Overt patriotism is a dead-set certainty at a tennis major, and with such sparse home-grown fare on offer the tennis fan takes what he or she can get. When Ajla Tomljanovic hit her first ball against Kateryna Bondarenko around 5.15pm, she was greeted as if her name was Goolagong. “Let’s go Tommy” and “come on Aussie” rang out for the 22-year-old native of Zagreb, who became “Aussie Ajla” in mid-2014 when coached by Sam Stosur’s mentor David Taylor. The bond is yet to fully set; Tomljanovic is a resident but not yet a citizen, playing as an Australian in the majors but a Croatian at other WTA tour events.

Against the experienced Bondarenko, a 29-year-old who took three years off the tour to start a family, she toiled admirably before succumbing 7-6, 6-3. Kyrgios’ pending appointment with Pablo Carreno Busta prevented him from urging his rumoured love interest to greater heights.

Thirteen Australians will take the court on day two, but Jasika has already set a high bar for adulation. As he closed out the match and hugged his coach and family at courtside, the chants rang out. “If you love Omar, stand up!” No-one was sitting down.

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