Tennis: Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz cruises through Australian Open first round against French veteran Richard Gasquet

Carlos Alcaraz has made a winning return to the Australian Open, but the second seed faced some early resistance from French veteran Richard Gasquet, before cruising to a 7-6(5) 6-1 6-2 victory in the opening round.

The muscular Spaniard, who skipped last year's tournament with a right leg issue, appeared overly exuberant at times, as he sought quick progress at Melbourne Park, but composed himself to grind down his seasoned opponent and blow him away.

"It's always great to play here in Australia, it's the third time that I'm playing here," said Alcaraz, 20, who will meet Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

Carlos Alcaraz in action at the Australian Open.
Carlos Alcaraz in action at the Australian Open. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I didn't have a good run in the years that I've played here, but I enjoyed it a lot today. I missed last year and felt really good playing here.

"I struggled a little bit in the first set with his game, but every set, I've been playing a bit better and, in the end, I was at a good level."

Gasquet, 37, looked like he had just taken a dip in the nearby Yarra river for much of the first set, as Alcaraz made him sweat for points, but he held firm and drew level at 3-3 in the tiebreak, with a breathtaking backhand winner.

Alcaraz raised his level from there to go a set up and the floodgates opened, as the Wimbledon champion racked up a 3-0 lead in the next, before doubling his advantage in the match, showcasing a mix of explosive forehands and deft shots.

With Gasquet fading, Alcaraz stepped up another gear on a balmy evening on Rod Laver Arena for the early break in the third set and settled the contest on serve, finishing with a fiery ace out wide on his fifth match point.

Alcaraz, whose coach Juan Carlos Ferrero is not in Melbourne, after undergoing surgery, was the final player to make it into the second round, after an opening round spanning three days.

His win also meant 30 of the 32 men's seeds won their opening match. Asked about the new schedule, Alcaraz said: "I think it's better for the players and better for everyone.

"For the crowd to have more days to have matches, for the tournament as well. I think for the players who play the first day, they have more days rest.

"I think it's a really good format."

One interested spectator was Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios, who was commentating for Eurosport, after injury prevented him from taking part.

"He makes me excited about tennis," Kyrgios said of the young Spaniard. "The guy's scary.

"End range. He's a freak when he's on end range like that.

"Intangibles are top notch. He'll have to clean it up a bit for the next match though, because Sonego can punish him."