TENNIS US OPEN – Nick Kyrgios brought youthful exuberance to court against veteran Mikhail Youzhny as he got his 1st US Open win 7-5 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(1). Cordell Hackshaw
Mikhail Youzhny (21) and Nick Kyrgios represent the past, present and future of men’s professional tennis. Youzhny at 32 years old is a tour veteran and Kyrgios who is 19, has a lot of buzz behind his name particular since he knocked out Rafael Nadal at this year’s Wimbledon. Now Kyrgios find himself playing yet another big name on tour for a place in the next round of a major. In this matchup of youth verses experience, the younger player won out causing the first upset of the tournament. Kyrgios showed himself to be well-abled to deal with the pressure of playing the top players at big tournaments. The Australian won the 3-hour battle in the heat taking it 7-5 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(1).
In the opening set, things were rather even between the players although Kyrgios looked the more aggressive. They were going for their shots and serving well, holding serve with relative ease. However, in the 11th game of the set, Kyrgios’ aggressive return stance paid dividend as he got the lone break of the set for 6-5. He easily held serve yet again to take the set 7-5. The 2nd set was a different affair; Kyrgios had an early break for 3-1 and had another break opportunity for 4-1. Youzhny was able to avoid double break deficit. Serving for a 5-3 lead, Kyrgios lost his concentration and then his serve to level things at 4-4. They remained on serve to force a decisive tiebreaker. Kyrgios was showing clear signs of frustration on the court. However, despite all the noisy antics from Kyrgios for most of the set, in the breaker he was cool and calm and outplayed his opponent. Youzhny was misfiring on his trademark backhand which never allowed him to gain any momentum in the breaker. Kyrgios now led 2-0 sets.
Youzhny finally found his game in the 3rd set. He was moving better and reducing the careless errors. He broke early for 2-0 on yet another point penalty issued against Kyrgios. The Australian was cursing and having mini tantrums on court. The chair umpire had zero tolerance for this behaviour and was one violation away from handing the match to Youzhny via a default. Youzhny seized upon this opportunity and wrapped up the 3rd set in 28 minutes, 6-2. Youzhny carried over this fine level of play into the 4th set and was up 5-3 with a set point to force a decisive 5th set. However, he soon reverted to his lackadaisical ways allowing Kyrgios to dictate play. Kyrgios got back on serve and led 6-5, forcing Youzhny to serve to stay in the match. Youzhny held serve to go to another tiebreaker but that was about all he could do for the rest of the match. He played a most pitiful breaker, never once looking like the more experience player. Kyrgios raced out to a 4-0 lead and did not look back. He took it 7-1 points as well as the match 7-5 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(1) in just over 3 hours.
Kyrgios was generally pleased with his match. He had 26 aces, got 70% of his 1st serves in and won 71% of the points with 68 winners compared to 57 errors. He himself admitted as much saying, “I knew I had to serve well, and I hit 26 aces. Those are good stats … I think it’s really good, especially from a confidence standpoint. I had to pull out of Cincinnati. You know, first match back and getting the win in four sets over a quality player like that, it’s a good confidence boost.” Kyrgios has admitted recently that he feels a lot of pressure on him since his Nadal victory. However, he noted at the Open that he has to manage all of this better as his career goes forward. Youzhny on the other hand, will have other things to look at. He has not gone past the 2nd round of a major this year and now has been bounced out of the tournament in the 1st round when he made the quarterfinals last year. He played a very tepid match today. Very rarely did he look like a top player on court. Hopefully, he can turn things around for the rest of the season and start 2015 in a far more positive light.
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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