There is a peculiar smell in the air in Melbourne. It’s not just the smell of Summer, it’s something more typical, more subtle: it’s the smell of tennis.
The city has woken up this week after the Christmas nap, the CBD bustling again with professionals; also the rest of the city is crowding up … a plethora of players, coaches, journalists, and tennis fans, all ready for edition 105 of the Australian Open, which is beginning today with the men’s qualifying tournament.
Free trams to get to Melbourne Park, all must look shiny and bright and beautiful. And so the police raids the CBD – especially near the central Flinder’s street station, to get rid of homeless camping in the neighbourhood. While it is not illegal to be homeless or sleep rough on the streets of Melbourne, it is illegal to camp in a public place. Despite denying any connection with the Australian Open, the coincidence is staggering.
While the big names are playing in Sydney, or taking turns to practice at the Rod Laver Arena, there is a lot of movement in the outer courts, fighting to death to grab one of the 6 spots available for the main draw. The day is sunny with a mild temperature and fresh breeze. Do you need anything more?
The biggest contingent comes from the USA with 16 players: 10 of them proceed to the second round, notably seed n.2 Tiafoe after a scare with Italian Cecchinato (6-3, 5-7, 7-5), Fratangelo (6-4, 7-6 over Zemlja from Slovenja), baby-Isner Opelka (7-5, 6-3 over Italian Napolitano), while surprisingly Kozlov (seed n.7, runner up in the junior tournament in 2014) lost in straight sets (6-1, 6-4) to Indian Bhambri.
Five out of 13 Australian players move to the second round: young Blake Mott and Brad Mousley (I always enjoy watching him playing), Alex Bolt, not-so-young Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith. Marinko Matosevic on a not-so-slow and inexorable decline, is out losing to Carballes Baena in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 as is Luke Saville who never managed to really make it in the ATP circuit, after winning a junior Wimbledon: now is mostly known to be Aussie rising star Daria Gavrilova’s boyfriend.
No.3 seed Jozef Kovalik was today’s biggest casualty, defeated in straight sets 6-3 6-3 by Marco Trungelliti from Argentina. Also the Canadian Pospisil fell 3-6 6-3 6-4 to the Belarussian Ignatik.
A final note for 38 years old Stepanek, top seed of the qualies, who survived a scare from American Bangoura (n.257) and regained focus after losing the second set, to move on to the next round where he’ll face the Slovenian Kavcic.
Tomorrow the women’s qualifying tournament starts with the first four seeds being Swiss Voegele, German Maria, Kai-Chen Chang from Taipei and American Brady. For different reasons, I am looking forward to see Bethanie Mattek-Sands (difficult match against Soler-Espinosa from Spain, n.10) and Daniela Hantuchova (vs n.13 Vikhlyantseva from Russia).
From Melbourne – Robbie Cappuccio
Wimbledon Daily Preview: Djokovic, Kerber, Alcaraz Face Seeded Opposition
Third round singles action begins on Friday, which is the first day seeded players clash in the draw. Novak Djokovic, Angelique Kerber, and Carlos Alcaraz will all face seeded opposition on Friday. And in perhaps the day’s most marquee matchup, Italy’s Jannik Sinner takes on John Isner, who eliminated Andy Murray on Wednesday.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Diane Parry – 1:30pm on Centre Court
Jabeur is now on a seven-match win streak, dating back to her title run two weeks ago in Berlin. She has earned two comprehensive victories this week, dropping just four games in each of her first two rounds. Parry is a 19-year-old who also nabbed her first two matches in straight sets. And just a few weeks ago, Diane also reached the third round of her home Slam in Paris, where she upset Barbora Krejcikova in the defending champion’s return from an injury layoff. There is plenty of promise in Parry’s game, but upsetting the new world No.2, whose style of play is a great fit for grass courts, would be a shocking result.
Angelique Kerber (15) vs. Elise Mertens (24) – Second on No.1 Court
Kerber got off to a terrible start this season, with a record of 2-8. Surprisingly, Angie found her form on her worst surface, with a clay title run in Strasbourg. Since last year, the 2018 champion is 15-3 on grass, and has not lost a set this week. Mertens is now into her 18th consecutive third round at a Major, though just barely. She needed to save two match points in the second set on Wednesday, before coming back to play an extended third set on Thursday, to eventually prevail 7-5 in the third. Elise claimed their only previous encounter in three sets, which occurred three years ago in Doha. But on grass, Kerber should be considered the favorite. Angie thrives off the low bounces these lawns provide.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic (25) – Second on Centre Court
After Djokovic was prevented from playing the Australian Open in January, it’s Kecmanovic who benefited from taking the top seed’s place in the draw. Miomir took full advantage, reaching the second week of a Major for the first time. And he has continued that momentum throughout the year, accumulating 27 match wins through six months. But he will likely be outmatched by his fellow Serbian on Friday. Djokovic is on a 23-match win streak at Wimbledon, and after some subpar form in his opening round, he comfortably dispatched of Thanasi Kokkinakis on Wednesday. Novak has claimed both his previous encounters with Kecmanovic, making him a clear favorite to reach the round of 16 at The Championships for the 14th time.
Jannik Sinner (10) vs. John Isner (20) – Third on No.2 Court
Isner demoralized the British audience on Wednesday by earning his first victory over two-time champion Andy Murray in nine tries. John’s serving was extra impressive in that match, striking 36 aces across four sets. But the rest of his game was highly effective as well, with 82 winners and only 32 unforced errors. And as Ben Rothenberg highlighted on Twitter, he broke Murray twice after only breaking him once across their previous eight matches. Meanwhile, Sinner came into this event 0-4 in main draw matches on grass, yet gained two four-set wins this week over Stan Wawrinka and Mikael Ymer. Jannik and John’s head-to-head is tied at 1-1, with Isner prevailing last year in Cincinnati, and Sinner prevailing later in the year in Davis Cup. As monstrous as Isner’s serve can be, maintaining his high level from Wednesday in all aspects of his game will be challenging. I give the slight edge to the more well-rounded game of Sinner, whose penetrating groundstrokes should earn him a few breaks of serve.
Carlos Alcaraz (5) vs. Oscar Otte (32) – Third on No.1 Court
Despite only playing two grass court matches in his career prior to this fortnight, Alcaraz appears pretty comfortable on this surface. After surviving a tight five-setter in the first round against Jan-Lennard Struff, Carlitos prevailed in straights in the last round. But his opposition on Friday is quite a formidable grass court player. Otte is a 28-year-old who, as a qualifier, pushed Andy Murray to five sets at this event one year ago. And Oscar is now 7-2 on grass this season, coming off back-to-back semifinals in Stuttgart and Halle. He also reached the second week of last summer’s US Open, and is now ranked inside the top 40. Yet based on what we’ve seen Alcaraz achieve this season, building a record of 34-4 with four titles, the 19-year-old’s mix of power, speed, and finesse should be enough to overcame the veteran from Germany.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Frances Tiafoe (23) vs. Alexander Bublik – These are two of the sport’s most entertaining players to watch. And both are in strong form, each winning all six sets they’ve contested this week. They played just last week in Eastbourne, with Bublik victorious in three sets.
Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu – Ostapenko has twice reached the quarters or better at this event, and was the runner-up a week ago in Eastbourne. Begu is a 32-year-old who reached the second week of Roland Garros a few weeks ago. And Begu took their only prior matchup, four years ago in Madrid on clay.
Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Tatjana Maria – Sakkari has easily advanced to this stage, and is vying for her fourth appearance in the round of 16 out of the last six Slams. Tatjana is a 34-year-old who upset Sorana Cirstea in the last round. In the first round of this year’s Australian Open, Sakkari defeated Maria in straights.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
WIMBLEDON: Day Three Talking Points heartbreak for Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray
Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu exited Wimbledon on day three.
Yesterday at Wimbledon cannot be sugar-coated. It was not a good day for British tennis.
Expectations of 19-year-old Emma Raducanu have been high since last year’s shock US Open triumph.
But she has had injury issues this season (abdominal most recently) coming into Wimbledon.
As well as being thrust into the global spotlight.
And the teenager was completely overpowered by an in-form Caroline Garcia of France.
The former world number four winning on Centre Court 6-3 6-3.
Having won the grass court warm up event Bad Homburg, beating Bianca Andreescu in the final, Garcia looks more than at home on the surface.
For Emma, her Wimbledon challenge will have to wait another year.
More disappointment followed
Meanwhile, former British number one Andy Murray was beaten by an inspired John Isner.
The two-time Wimbledon champion had never lost to the American with a perfect 8-0 winning head-to-head.
But he came up against an inspired Isner, who put on a serving clinic to stay untouchable on serve.
With some fine serve and volleys to boot.
Murray did well to claim the third set tie-breaker when two sets to love down.
It even looked like another famous comeback would be on the cards for the 35-year-old.
But those hopes were firmly extinguished as the 37-year-old veteran sealed yet more personal Wimbledon history as he won 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.
Put into context, the former world number one also had an abdominal injury coming into Wimbledon that forced him to pull out of Queen’s.
The three-time Grand Slam champion suffering this in the final of Stuttgart against Matteo Berrettini.
Had it not been for that injury, who knows what might have been.
Murray says he will focus on improving his ranking of 52 so he doesn’t have to face dangerous guys like Isner, seeded 20, so early on in the Grand Slams.
Doing so before the US Open is his next goal.
Best of the rest – Cameron Norrie survives in five
Defending champion Novak Djokovic stream rolled his way past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Winning in straight sets 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
And there was some good news for British tennis as ninth seed Cameron Norrie fought through in five sets.
He beat Spaniard Jaume Munar, who came through the Rafa Nadal Academy, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.
Coming back impressively from two sets to one down.
The endurance and stamina of Norrie shining through in the fourth and fifth sets.
He faces Steve Johnson next who beat Britain’s Ryan Peniston 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
The main shock on the women’s side came as Estonian Anett Kontaveit was stunned by Jule Niemeier.
The 22-year-old German knocking out the second seed 6-4, 6-0 with a bagel final set.
And former champion Garbiñe Muguruza was beaten by Belgian Greet Minnen 6-4, 6-0with a final set bagel as well.
There were also wins for third seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, Jeļena Ostapenko of Latvia, and Greece’s fifth seed Maria Sakkari.
In the men’s, young stars Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Italy’s Jannik Sinner are also through to the third round for the first time.
Wimbledon Daily Preview: Compelling Matchups Scheduled All Around the Grounds on Thursday
Day 4 play is headlined by top names such as Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff, and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Those names are all considerable favorites in their second round matches, so other matchups on Thursday’s schedule may be more compelling and competitive. And with many of those encounters scheduled at the same time, multiple screens are recommended.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Thursday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Filip Krajinovic (26) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Second on No.2 Court
Despite his usual poor behavior, Kyrgios survived in five on Tuesday against British wild card Paul Jubb, who is ranked outside the top 200 in the world. But Nick is in strong form this month, with an 8-3 record on grass, having reached the semifinals of both Stuttgart and Halle. Krajinovic is also in the midst of a strong grass court season, coming off a run to the final of Queen’s Club. Like Kyrgios, he also required five sets to advance in the first round. That was actually Filip’s first-ever win at SW19, as he was 0-4 prior to this fortnight. Krygios leads their head-to-head 3-0 at all levels, though they haven’t played since 2015. On grass, Nick’s formidable firepower should be plenty to prevail again over Filip, as long as he can maintain his composure.
Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Second on Court 12
On Tuesday, Andreescu achieved her first career victory at The Championships. Bianca had only played five tour-level matches on grass ahead of this year, though she’s now 5-2 on grass this month. Rybakina reached the fourth round of Wimbledon a year ago, but lost two of her three grass court matches coming into this event. In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to Andreescu based on recent form. And while Elena has accumulated 22 wins this season, only four of them have come at Majors, and none of those four against a top player like Bianca.
Barbora Krejcikova (13) vs. Viktorija Golubic – Second on Court 18
This is only Krejickova’s fourth singles match since February due to an elbow injury. Her opening round victory was her first since returning to the tour. Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist here a year ago, when she defeated both Danielle Collins and Madison Keys. Yet she has not been able to follow-up on that result, as she has a losing record since that run. They have split four previous meetings at all levels. Their most recent clash occurred two years ago in Dubai, with Barbora prevailing 6-1, 6-2. But her lack of match play, along with Viktorija’s grass prowess, make Krejcikova an underdog on this day. While results on other surfaces have not followed, Golubic is now 13-7 on grass since last season, which includes a semifinal appearance earlier this month in Nottingham.
Karolina Pliskova (6) vs. Katie Boulter (WC) – 1:30pm on Centre Court
Pliskova was the runner-up a year ago, losing the championship match to Ash Barty 6-3 in the third. Unfortunately a hand injury forced her to miss the first two months of 2022, and she’s only 9-10 this season as a result. Boulter is a 25-year-old Brit who pushed Aryna Sabalenka to three sets at last year’s event, and is 8-3 on grass at all levels this season. And just like week, Boulter beat Pliskova on grass in Eastbourne 6-4 in the third. Now can Katie repeat that result on her country’s most prestigious court? She’ll certainly have the full support of the Centre Court audience, and her experience last year on this court could prove extremely valuable. Considering Pliskova has only twice won back-to-back matches this year, an upset on Thursday feels entirely possible.
Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Jack Draper – Third on No.1 Court
This could easily become the most competitive show court match of the day. And the British crowd will be vociferously behind Draper, especially late in the day on the tournament’s second biggest court. Jack is a 20-year-old Brit who last year took a set off Novak Djokovic on Centre Court. And he’s collected 31 match wins at all levels this season, which includes four Challenger titles as well as a semifinal run just last week in Eastbourne. But de Minaur is also having a strong season. The Australian has 25 wins, all at tour level, and was also a semifinalist in Eastbourne. Both players won their first round matches in straight sets, so they’re surely feeling fresh and confident. While Alex’s defensive skills will force Jack to strike some extra balls, Draper’s offensive weapons will be rewarded on this surface. And the crowd’s encouragement may be the x-factor Draper needs to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Jordan Thompson – Tsitsipas prevailed in four sets on Tuesday, bringing his Wimbledon record to just 4-4. He’s 1-0 against Thompson, who is only 8-12 this season at tour level.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Ricardas Berankis – Nadal is now 31-3 on the year, and seemed rather unbothered by his chronic foot injury in the opening round. Earlier this season in Australia, he defeated Berankis in straight sets.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove (LL) – A victory for Swiatek on Thursday would be her 37th consecutive win, tying her with Martina Hingis for the longest women’s singles win streak across the past three decades. Lesley is a 30-year-old ranked 138th in the world who at last year’s Wimbledon earned for first-ever main draw win at a Major by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Simona Halep (16) vs. Kirsten Flipkens – Halep is on an eight-match win streak at Wimbledon, dating back to her title run in 2019. 36-year-old Flipkens has said this will be her last-ever singles tournament. She was a semifinalist here in 2013.
Coco Gauff (11) vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu – Gauff scarcely survived the first round, overcoming Elena-Gabriela Ruse 7-5 in the third. But Coco should be able to settle into the tournament from here, especially against Buzarnescu. She’s currently 127th in the world, and on Tuesday won her first WTA-level match in nearly a year.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
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