Jo-Wilfried Tsonga kicked-off his 2016 campaign with a solid 6-3, 6-4, win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The Frenchman was playing in his first tournament of the year after withdrawing from last week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship due to a forearm injury. Facing the world No.34 in Auckland, the Frenchman experienced little difficulty. As proceedings got underway Kohlschreiber produced a nightmare start after hitting two consecutive double faults in his first service game to grant Tsonga a 2-0 lead. The falter proved costly as the second seed remained strong on his serve to take the opening set after 29 minutes.
Tsonga dealt his next blow to the German at the start of the second set. Applying pressure onto Kohlschreiber’s second serve, Tsonga converted for the second time of the match after he forced his opponent to hit the ball out. The momentum was nearly squandered in the sixth game of the set when the German had a double chance to break back. Kohlschreiber failed to capitalize on the double opportunity as Tsonga clawed his way back to maintain the lead in the match. The sixth game was the only time that Tsonga was in danger. Serving for the match, the world No.10 raced to 40-0 before taking the win due to a forehand unforced error from his opponent.
In his first match of the year, Tsonga produced seven forehand and five backhand winners. On the other hand, it wasn’t a perfect performance from the Frenchman who produced 26 unforced errors in the match. Assessing his performance in Auckland, Tsonga was encouraged with how he performed.
“I’m pretty happy with the result, it is the first match of the year for me. I felt great.” Tsonga said during his on court interview.
In the last eight Tsonga will play Fabio Fognini. Fognini saved two match points before edging past Portugal’s Joao Sousa on Tuesday. The world No.10 currently has a 100% record against Fognini after winning all three of their previous encounters.
Top seed David Ferrer was too strong for Australian qualifier Matthew Barton, winning 6-2, 6-4. Barton was playing in his first ATP main draw this week in Auckland. The Spanish world No.8 was dominant on his serve throughout the match, facing no break points and winning 88% of his first serves. Ferrer is bidding to win his fifth title in Auckland this year. The event is special for the 33-year-old, who claimed his first ATP hard court title in New Zealand back in 2007. During his press conference, Ferrer praised the tournament officials.
“I like this tournament a lot, obviously the people [here] enjoy their tennis and have fun,” said Ferrer. ” [I’ve been involved] in a tournament in Valencia and [Auckland] is a great example of how to make a good tournament.” He said.
Next up for Ferrer will be Lukas Rosol. The Czech stunned French fifth seed Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5. The top seed have played Rosol twice last year in Beijing and Miami. On both occasions he took the win in straight sets.
Kevin Anderson overcame Dutch qualifier Robin Haase 7-6(8), 7-6(5) in a mixed encounter for the South African. Playing in his first match of the year after withdrawing from Chennai last week due to a knee injury, Anderson was at times rusty on the court. Nevertheless, the South African sealed the win with the help of eight aces. Following his first match of the year, the world No.12 gave an update on his knee.
“It’s been playing up a little bit but it’s feeling much better now,” Anderson said.
“I was happy with how it felt in today’s match. It’s always a very tricky and tough match but it gets you feeling more comfortable, especially when you’ve had a pretty long break coming off the off season.”
Next up for the world No.12 will be Jack Sock. Facing close friend and doubles partner Vasek Pospisil, the American cruised to a 6-2, 6-4, win. Anderson has beaten Sock once before at the 2014 Rome Open.
In other matches, Roberto Bautista Agut reached his second consecutive quarter final on the ATP Tour this year after defeating Donald Young 6-4, 7-6(3). Bautista Agut will play John Isner for a chance to progress to the last four. Third seed Isner required over two hours in his match to defeat Sam Querrey 7-6(8), 6-7(4), 6-4.
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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