TENNIS AO2015 – The first Grand Slam of the season is already behind us. The Australian Open has traditionally thrown up more surprises and upsets than the other Slams as a result of it being right at the start of the season, when players still haven’t got a groove going. This season that hasn’t been the case. Except for Roger Federer, all of the top eight seeds reached the quarter finals and not many conclusions can be drawn from Melbourne. Bruno Bergareche Sans
What is clear is that Novak Djokovic is still the man to beat. Although the Serb wasn’t as brilliant as he has been in the past, he seemed to do just enough to coast to the trophy, without having to switch too much through the gears. When you’re winning slams in that manner then you’re in a class of your own, and with an outstanding fifth Australian Open, Djokovic now takes his overall tally to 8, with there being no clear indication of where his limit could be.
Melbourne also signalled the return of Andy Murray to the top four, a status he had struggled to regain after his back problems. For Murray the Australian Open was like going back in time to his pre-Lendl days. The man from Dunblane played aggressive tennis which helped him to impressive wins over Dimitrov and Berdych but it was his temperament and attitude which let him down in the final, as it had done on so many occasions previously to his first Grand Slam triumphs. The Briton has now lost six of his eight Grand Slam finals which is a very poor record and Amelie Mauresmo has her work cut out trying to ensure that the Scot keeps his focus in important matches because it has proven to be his downfall time and time again.
As for the semi finalists, Stan Wawrinka did his job on paper which was to reach the semi finals and bow out to Djokovic in five sets, but in reality his performance in those semis were a bit of a worry for fans of the Swiss star. Wawrinka was extremely erratic and later admitted that he was mentally drained; a very concerning fact when we’re just a couple of weeks into the new season. That semi final defeat also means that Wawrinka drops to number 9 in the world which means he could face the top four as early as in the last sixteen of tournaments. The other semi finalist leaves Melbourne with a slightly bitter taste feeling. Berdych will be radiant about his straight sets win over Rafa Nadal after a 17-match losing streak against the Spaniard but he really didn’t back it up against Murray in the semi finals. The gulf between the Scot and the Czech player was far too big for what Berdych’s aspirations are. With Vallverdu now in his corner, the man from Prague will look to definitively get himself up amongst the big boys but it always seems he’s just one step below.
With regards to Nadal, not much was expected from the Mallorcan and even more so after just about surviving against Smyczek in the second round. But if there is one thing you’re always going to get from the Spaniard its grit and determination and he put in a solid run to the quarter finals with a good win against Anderson in the fourth round. The match against Berdych however was a true measuring tool to gauge where Nadal was exactly and it went to prove that the 14-time Grand Slam champion has quite a way to go in terms of getting rid of the rust.
The one surprise of the tournament which is mentioned briefly at the top of the article was Roger Federer’s exit at the hands of Andreas Seppi. A curiosity about Federer’s draw at the Australian Open is that he played players ranked 47 (Lu), 48 (Bolelli) and 47 (Seppi) in the opening three rounds. The difference in results only going to show how beautifully unpredictable this sport is. Roger will be bitterly disappointed with such an early exit from a Slam and will be raring to get back on the courts but the sensation is that it will be very difficult for the Swiss maestro to add any more Slams to that incredible record of 17.
One of the positive stories from the Australian Open was the awakening of Australian tennis. One of the greatest powerhouses, if not the greatest, in the history of tennis, Australia has experienced a void since Lleyton Hewitt which appears to be coming to an end on the evidence of the opening Slam of the season. Huge hope Nick Kyrgios made the most of Federer’s absence to rampage through to the quarter finals with box office big hitting tennis and with a less flashy yet equally efficient game, Bernard Tomic had his typical good run in Melbourne which was only ended by Berdych in the fourth round. Kokkinakis also got the fans going with a tremendous first round win against Sam Groth. Now these players have to show they can also do it without their home crowd behind them.
So to wrap it all up, what we can conclude from the Australian Open is that Djokovic will take some beating, Murray has to cut down his moaning, Nadal needs some court time and Australia is putting its name back on the map. Let the tennis continue.
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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