- By Jonathan Jurejko
- BBC Sport at Melbourne Park
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-28 January
Coverage: Commentary every day from 07:00 GMT on Tennis Breakfast on Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the BBC Sport website and app
British number two Jodie Burrage says she needs to improve her self-belief after letting a one-set lead slip on her Australian Open main-draw debut.
Burrage, 24, was beaten 2-6 6-3 6-0 by Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch on the tournament’s historic Sunday start.
The Briton made a confident start but faded badly as Korpatsch took control and won nine of the final 10 games.
“I’ve got to do some work and trying to back myself and believe a little bit more,” said Burrage, who is ranked 102.
“You could see it today. It was just absolutely panic stations at some point.”
On trying to show more self-belief at the highest level, Burrage added: “I think ultimately that’s what I struggle with a lot. If I’m honest, I’ve struggled with that my whole career.
“In a match like today when someone just stops missing and puts balls in court, it’s not easy to have the confidence to hit through them.
“I need to learn how to back myself on the court because at the moment I don’t in those situations.”
Burrage was the first of seven Britons playing in the singles, with the rest in action on Monday or Tuesday as the first round is now spread over three days.
World number one Novak Djokovic and defending women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka are in action later on Sunday.
Burrage needs a ‘plan B’
Receiving direct entry into the main draw in Melbourne for the first time was indicative of Burrage’s improved form over the past year.
But the manner in which the 24-year-old unravelled against Korpatsch illustrated the work she needs to do to achieve this season’s goal of cementing a place in the world’s top 100.
The afternoon had started well for Burrage. Returning well and using her power from the baseline to push her opponent deep, she earned two break points in third game and took the first when Korpatsch hit long.
The Briton took a second opportunity to move 4-1 ahead, putting away a crosscourt forehand winner which demonstrated her growing confidence, and served out to take the opening set in 28 minutes.
Korpatsch, who beat Burrage twice at the end of last season, went for a six-minute bathroom break in an effort to regroup.
It seemed to work as the world number 81 discovered a higher level in the second set.
Korpatsch continued to make the points longer, drawing more errors out of Burrage from the baseline and the increased pressure led to Briton producing back-to-back double faults to gift her opponent a 4-2 lead.
Burrage survived a set point as she served her way out of trouble for 5-3 and threatened to break back in the ninth game before Korpatsch got over the line to level.
With momentum against her, Burrage looked increasingly edgy and it showed as her returning game continued to break down in the decider.
Another double fault helped Korpatsch move 3-0 ahead, while three unforced errors from the baseline handed over a triple break to the German.
Burrage’s annoyance was illustrated when she whacked a ball out of the court, earning her a warning from the umpire, with Korpatsch wrapping up victory with a confident hold.
While questioning why Korpatsch’s bathroom break took so long, Burrage said it did not disrupt her.
“I think she just regrouped herself. I don’t think she played too well in the first set, but I also obviously managed to dominate,” she added.
“I kind of lost my way in the second set and didn’t enjoy playing in the [windy] conditions as they picked up a little bit.
“I found it tough to serve in that wind and when it gets windy, it’s not as easy to play. That’s just what I need to learn to do.
“I need to learn to have a bit of a plan B because there was no plan B there today.”
Why has a Sunday start been introduced?
It is the first Sunday start at the Australian Open, which followed the lead of the French Open by extending to a 15-day tournament.
Tennis lovers have taken full advantage of the early start as 58,623 fans streamed through the gates at Melbourne Park.
With a reduced schedule as the first-round matches are stretched over three days, the site felt extremely busy and spectators queued to get on to courts..
Organisers say the historic move was implemented in a bid to alleviate late-night finishes, which have been a problem over the years.
But, as Britain’s Andy Murray also pointed out, it is unlikely to make a great difference to that ongoing issue.
The move does, though, bring in extra revenue.
Tennis Australia, which puts on the event, is continuing its recovery from losses caused by Covid-hit tournaments. The additional income from the extra day is estimated at 10m Australian dollars (£5m).
A strong financial position will also help the Australian swing protect its place in the annual calendar, amid reports of Saudi Arabia eyeing potential opportunities to hold tournaments.