By Cheryl Jones
Nine time Gerry Weber Open winner Roger Federer saved his best tennis of the day for the Tie-Break in a three set thriller. The match should have been an easy win for him against Frenchman, Benoit Paire. The two had faced each other five times, with Federer the victor in each of the other matches, but none of them were contested on grass.
The World Number One player, who at 36, is the oldest man to ever lay claim that ranking in the Open Era, looked tentative in the second set. His steady play in the first set took a mere twenty-seven minutes. It looked as if he had another win to add to his long list of grass court wins. Today, he was on a seventeen-match grass-court win streak that dates back to his ninth title in Halle last year. (Paire had played thirty-six matches on the surface, with 18 wins and 18 losses.)
The Swiss Maestro chalked up a 6-3 first set that left him with a lead that could have propelled him to finish the match more quickly – but it didn’t. The first set was really a romp, leaving Paire frustrated and quite agitated, even though he seemed to be playing solid tennis. He gave his racquet a beating on the grass, and the Umpire gave him a warning that he would be docked a point if he kept up the racquet abuse. On his next toss of the racquet, he was careful to keep it off the grass, just skimming the surface that actually maintained its level condition.
In the after-match interview, I asked Federer if the histrionics of opponents affected the way he played the match after seeing an outburst from frustrated rivals. He said that basically he didn’t pay much attention to what the other players did on changeovers, unless they damaged the court surface. He heard the rumblings of the crowd when the racquet smashing was happening, but that rumbling was only temporary because Paire’s Babolat racquet managed to maintain its shape and there was no need for a pause in the play to replace the offensive piece of equipment.
The second set was virtually all Paire. He broke Federer’s service in the second and fourth games, and smoothly finished up with a mirror image of the first set at 6-3 in his favour. (Not bad for someone ranked 48 and more than seven years younger than the virtuoso player from Switzerland.) He had never been very successful against top players, having a 6 win and 30 loss record against top ten opponents. He was 0 and 3 against Number One and Number Two seeds. It looked as if he could pull out an unexpected win and the crowd was restless, but thrilled to be able to see a third set.
The third set was a teeter-totter kind of contest, with the lead trading sides often. When the score reached 6-6, it was time for a Tie-Break that became a give and take kind of affair as well. (There couldn’t be another Isner versus Mahut contest in the making, even ardent fans couldn’t turn the stadium into a virtual sleep over arena. There was another match scheduled for later today.)
The edge of your seat match seemed to have taken much longer than it actually did. The hour and fifty-eight minute contest was over at 7-6 and a relieved Roger Federer had recorded yet another victory in the stadium that must seem like home to the man from Basel, Switzerland who has been chalking up victory after victory on the grass courts here and in Wimbledon.
After today, he has a 170-24 grass court win count. He is creeping up on the record now held by Jimmy Connors – 174-34. Even a win at this year’s Gerry Weber Open will leave him a couple of wins short of that record, but Wimbledon is next on his dance card and if he continues to play as he has in the past, the record should be his after the third round.
It’s unlikely that he has spent much time contemplating this latest approachable accomplishment because he insists that he concentrates on the match at hand and not what could occur in the future. He will face Matthew Ebden of Australia tomorrow afternoon in the Quarterfinals and if all the shots go where he plans to place them, he will move on to the Semi-final match on Saturday and winning that will propel him into the final that will be on the docket for Sunday afternoon.
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.”
French Player Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours After Australian Open Defeat
The world No.40 was preparing to leave the country.
Ugo Humbert is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 following his first round loss at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Humbert, who was the 29th seed in the men’s draw, is understood to have produced a positive result during a routine procedure players have to conduct before they leave the country. It is unclear as to if he is currently suffering from any symptoms.
Humbert crashed out of the tournament to compatriot Richard Gasquet, who won their match 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6 (3), 6-3, in three hours and 18 minutes. Gasquet also tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia earlier this month but was given the all clear to play at Melbourne Park following a negative test. There was a 15-day period between the 35-year-old announcing on Twitter he had the virus and his first match against Humbert.
“I was tested positive on my exit test yesterday and I’ll stay one more week in isolation in Australia,” Humbert wrote on Instagram.
“Thanks for your support and see you soon.”
The 23-year-old has started his season by winning one out of four matches played. Prior to the Australian Open, he scored one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Cup in the group stages. However, following that victory he suffered losses to Alex de Minaur and Matteo Berrettini.
Tennis Australia is yet to comment on Humbert’s positive test.
Italian Journalist rates Camila Giorgi, Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego’s Australian Open hopes
Australian Open Daily Preview: Friday Provides Many Excellent Third Round Matchups
Australian Open: Daniil Medvedev powers past home favourite Nick Kyrgios
Danka Kovinic becomes the first player from Montenegro to reach the third round at a Grand Slam tournament
‘Disappointed’ Murray Aims For Improvement In Results After Second Round Australian Open Exit
Novak Djokovic To Be Deported From Australia After Court Appeal Fails
Novak Djokovic ‘Trying’ To Get To The Australian Open, Says Lajovic
Novak Djokovic To Play Australian Open
REPORT: Novak Djokovic Denied Entry Into Australia After Visa Mix-Up
‘An Error Of Judgement’ – Novak Djokovic Admits He Broke Covid-19 Rules To Attend Photoshoot
US Open, Steve Flink: “Djokovic’s loss had more to do with fatigue than pressure”
US Open, Steve Flink on the Murray-Tsitsipas Controversy
(VIDEO) Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro Gathering Momentum In Comeback Bids
Steve Flink On Wimbledon: “Bautista Agut would be a tough semifinal test for Djokovic”
Wimbledon, Flink: “Djokovic Will Beat Zverev in the Final”
Grand Slam2 days ago
Tennis Australia To ‘Review’ Handling Of Djokovic Fiasco But Not Until Australian Open Ends
ATP2 days ago
Liam Broady On Why He Wore Rainbow Laces During His Australian Open Match
Hot Topics1 day ago
Australian Open Visa Fiasco Was Preventable, Says Two-Time Champion Azarenka
ATP3 days ago
Australian Open: ‘I’m feeling great’, says Gaël Monfils after straight sets win
ATP1 day ago
French Player Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours After Australian Open Defeat
ATP3 days ago
Australian Open: Pablo Carreno Busta Through But Fabio Fognini Stunned
ATP2 days ago
Casper Ruud Withdraws From Australian Open Due To Ankle Injury
ATP2 days ago
Grigor Dimitrov downs Jiri Lehecka to begin Australian Open campaign