TENNIS US OPEN – Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov were amongst the few remaining men who had yet to play their first round match at the US Open despite it being Day 3 at the championships. None of the other big names have been upset so far in the tournament and neither Berdych nor Dimitrov wanted to be the one to change this status. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw
Tomas Berdych (6) and Grigor Dimitrov (7) were amongst the few remaining men who had yet to play their first round match at the US Open despite it being Day 3 at the championships. None of the other big names have been upset so far in the tournament and neither Berdych nor Dimitrov wanted to be the one to change this status. They faced tough opponents in the form of Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison respectively. However, despite Hewitt and Harrison doing their level best to cause trouble for Berdych and Dimitrov, in the end their efforts were in vain as they lost in straight sets. Berdych took out Hewitt 6-3 6-4 6-3 and Dimitrov dispatched Harrison 6-2 7-64 6-2.
Hewitt knew the importance of holding serve against the likes of Berdych and was battling hard to avoid going down an early break. He was able to fight off the early break opportunities against him but a mighty backhand return winner from Berdych secured him the break and the lead at 3-1. Berdych was able to maintain this break advantage to close out the set 6-3. In the 2nd set, Hewitt was able to turn things around as he got up 4-1. Berdych then turned up his intensity to take the next 7 games and extend his lead to 2-0 sets and a break in the 3rd. Hewitt later stated, “[T]hat was my obviously my small chance out there if I could have tried to keep that lead … Yeah, if I had broken again and then given myself a chance to serve for the 2nd set, at least put … more doubt in his mind”
Hewitt was able to level the 3rd set at 3-3 breaking the Berdych serve in the 6th game. However, Berdych broke back immediately and did so again to take the match 6-3 6-4 6-3. “It was a tough opponent, a big challenge. The conditions were extremely tough today. The heat, the wind and facing Lleyton for the first round … I’m happy with the way I handled it.” Berdych was simply the better player. He had 9 aces whereas Hewitt had 9 double faults. The Czech had seemingly horrible numbers on his winners to errors sheet with 43 winners to 51 errors. This hardly mattered as Hewitt had only 19 winners along with 36 errors. Berdych will have to clean up his game if he wishes to have another good run at these championships. He will play in the 2nd round Martin Klizan who rallied from 0-2 sets down against Steve Darcis to win it in 5 sets.
This is the second consecutive major where Dimitrov and Harrison are meeting in the first round. At Wimbledon, Dimitrov beat Harrison in straight sets on his way to his first major semifinal appearance. In this match, Dimitrov was a lot more alert from the beginning than he was in London. The Bulgarian broke the American in the 4th game to lead 3-1. He broke Harrison again in the 8th game to close out the set 6-2 in just over half an hour. Similar to the Berdych match, the lower ranked opponent made a serious bid in the 2nd set to even the match. Harrison broke an erratic Dimitrov for 3-2. He maintained this break and served for the set at 5-4. However, he could not close it out. Harrison had soon gone from leading 5-3 in the set to trail 5-6. He held serve to force the breaker but again on the big points, he either made an error or allowed Dimitrov to control the point. Dimitrov won the tiebreak to lead 6-2 7-64.
There was very little Harrison could do in the 3rd set to stop Dimitrov as he was broken in his opening service game. A second break of serve in the 5th game sealed his faith as Dimitrov serve out the match 6-2 7-6 6-2 in just over two hours. Harrison was simply outclassed by a superior player. He had 37 unforced errors to 25 winners whereas Dimitrov had only 19 errors and 37 winners. Dimitrov was winning 84% of the points behind his 1st serves and 66% on his 2nd serves along with 8 aces and faced only two break points the entire match. Harrison could only muster up 62% on his 1st serves and 45% on 2nd serves with 6 double faults and 3 aces. The American was broken 5 times in the match. Dimitrov faces Dudi Sela in the 2nd round. Sela beat Carlos Berlocq in 4 sets.
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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