Australian Open Daily Preview: Several Top Seeds Face Significant Unseeded Opposition - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Several Top Seeds Face Significant Unseeded Opposition

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Casper Ruud on Tuesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

Thursday will be a busy day in Melbourne, featuring 32 second round singles matches, and 42 first round doubles matches.

 

Casper Ruud, a two-time Major finalist in 2022, faces a frustrating foe in Jenson Brooksby.  WTA Finals Champion Caroline Garcia takes on 2021 US Open Finalist Leylah Fernandez.  And Aryna Sabalenka, the fifth seed, plays Shelby Rogers, who has a history of upsetting big names at Slams.

Plus fresh off his five-set win over Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday, Andy Murray goes against Australia’s own Thanasi Kokkinakis.

And Day 4 also sees Novak Djokovic and Ons Jabeur play their second round matches.

Each day this preview will highlight the four most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time. 


Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Shelby Rogers – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

A year ago, Sabalenka endured one of the toughest spans of her career.  She was striking double-digit double faults in the majority of her matches, and lost a heartbreaking fourth round match at this tournament to Kaia Kanepi in a final set tiebreak.  Yet Aryna improved on her service woes as the year progressed, reaching her third Major semifinal in New York, as well as the championship match at the WTA Finals.  And she’s off to a 5-0 start in 2023, coming off a title run in Adelaide where she didn’t drop a set.

Rogers owns some big victories over top names at Majors, such as Ash Barty, Petra Kvitova, and Simona Halep.  But Shelby had a losing record in 2022, and lost both of her main draw matches at Australian Open tune-up events earlier this month.

Sabalenka is 2-0 against Rogers, with both matches taking place last year.  In ‘s-Hertogenbosch on grass, she prevailed in straights.  In Cincinnati on a hard court, she prevailed in three.  On Thursday, Sabalenka is the favorite to prevail again, as she’s one of the top contenders to make a deep run in Melbourne. 


Jenson Brooksby vs. Casper Ruud (2) – Not Before 12:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Ruud started the season going just 1-2 ahead of this fortnight, and survived a tough four-setter against Tomas Machac in the first round.  Casper missed last year’s Australian Open due to an ankle injury, before of course achieving his first two Major finals later in the season.

Brooksby also won in four sets on Tuesday, but spent nearly an hour less on court than Ruud.  After having a breakout season in 2021, when he accumulated 49 match wins at all levels, Jenson fell into the dreaded sophomore slump in 2022, going just 27-23.  But the 22-year-old is off to a more promising start in 2023, coming off a semifinal run last week in Auckland.

Ruud and Brooksby played last May on clay in Rome, with Casper prevailing in straights.  But on a quicker surface in Melbourne, Jenson has a strong chance to upset the second seed.  Almost all of the American’s good results have come on hard courts, and his in-your-face, impudent attitude can annoy many opponents, as it did Borna Coric at last summer’s US Open.  And following all the career-changing success Ruud attained last year, he feels due for a letdown.


Leylah Fernandez vs. Caroline Garcia (4) – Third on Rod Laver Arena

Since the 19th of June, Garcia is 41-10, with four titles on three different surfaces.  That includes the WTA Finals, the biggest title of her career to date.  And Caroline also achieved her first Major semifinal in New York.  She easily prevailed in straight sets in the first round.

Fernandez was the runner-up in New York a year prior, but went just 21-15 last season.  A foot injury she suffered in the Roland Garros quarterfinals derailed her year, and she’s only 8-9 since.  On Tuesday, she earned her first-ever victory at the Australian Open over another Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet.

In their first career meeting, Garcia must be favored based on her superb recent form.  But Fernandez is one of the WTA’s most dogged competitors, and as we saw two years ago at the US Open, she loves to upset top seeds at Slams.


Andy Murray vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis – Last on Margaret Court Arena

What will Murray have left after his epic first round encounter against Berrettini, which lasted nearly five hours and was decided by a fifth-set tiebreak?  The last few times Andy has won a five-setter at a Major, he’s lost the next round in straight sets.  That includes the 2020 US Open (defeated Nishioka, lost to Auger-Aliassime), Wimbledon 2021 (defeated Otte, lost to Shapovalov), and the 2022 Australian Open (defeated Basilashvili, lost to Daniel).  And the Berrettini match went longer than any of those previous five-set victories.

Kokkinakis easily prevailed in his first round, dropping only five games to Fabio Fognini in a match spread across two days.  He’s coming off a semifinal run last week in his hometown of Adelaide, where he beat the likes of Andrey Rublev.  And a year ago, he teamed with close friend Nick Kyrgios to win the men’s doubles title at this event.

Their only previous meeting occurred eight years ago in Davis Cup, where Murray easily beat Kokkinakis when the Aussie was just 19-years-old.  Andy is keen to reverse his recent pattern at Slams, and make his first run to the second week in six years.  But there’s no way his body will be 100% after such a grueling battle.  And with the Aussie fans going wild for Kokkinakis, I like Thanasi’s chances of reaching the third round at his home Slam for the first time.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Alize Cornet and Sam Stosur (WC) vs. Hao-Ching Chan and Zhaoxuan Yang (11) – Stosur has announced this will be the final tournament of her career.  Hao-Ching and Zhaoxuan are a new partnership for 2023, and are 0-2 thus far.

Taylor Fritz (8) vs. Alexei Popyrin (WC) – Fritz defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili in a tight four-setter on Tuesday, while Australian Popyrin came back from two-sets-to-one down to win in five.  Last August in Washington, Fritz beat Popyrin in straights.

Enzo Couacaud (Q) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – Djokovic looked pretty sharp on Tuesday despite the hamstring injury he’s been recovering from.  Couacaud is a 27-yea-old Frenchman who on Tuesday won only his second main draw match at a Major.

Marketa Vondrousova vs. Ons Jabeur – Jabeur prevailed in three sets on Tuesday over Tamara Zidansek.  Vondrousova was a surprise finalist at the 2019 French Open, but her career has been hampered by injuries for the last several years.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Injury ‘Hard To Believe’ In The Eyes Of His Opponent

Some details surrounding Djokovic’s battle with a hamstring issue ‘doesn’t make sense,’ according to Enzo Couacaud.

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Image via Adelaide International Twitter

The only man to take a set off Novak Djokovic during the Serbian’s run to a historic 10th Australian Open title believes there are unanswered questions over his injury. 

 

France’s Enzo Couacaud took a set off the world No.1 before losing their encounter in the second round at Melbourne Park. At the tournament Djokovic was dealing with a hamstring problem which he picked up at the Adelaide International earlier this year. Throughout the tournament, he was wearing strapping on his leg and there was uncertainty about if he would be able to continue playing in the Grand Slam event. 

Despite the issue, Djokovic claimed a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title by disposing of Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the final. Afterwards his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, claimed that 97% of players would not have played if they were in a similar situation. The exact diagnosis of Djokovic’s injury hasn’t been addressed by his team but Australian Open director Craig Tiley said he suffered a 3mm tear. 

However, Couacaud has questioned the significance of the injury to begin with. During an interview with Tennis Actu, the world No.172 believes that some of the details appear to be ‘far-fetched’ as he draws parallels with Rafael Nadal, as well as footballer Kylian Mbappe.  

“Novak claimed he was playing with an injury, a big injury,” said Couacaud. “When athletes are injured in combat sports, they often can’t continue. When Rafael Nadal is injured, he can’t run. Kylian Mbappe, for example, is out for two weeks.
“And those are the greatest athletes, not those who don’t have access to top-notch care. It is therefore difficult to believe that only one man in the world can continue with an injury.
“When you take the examples of Nadal or Mbappe, but especially Rafa, with an injury to Wimbledon, he couldn’t even serve. When you see the greatest who can’t set foot on the pitch and another who wins a Grand Slam by playing every day for 15 days. It still seems a bit far-fetched.
“There are little things that don’t make sense to me. I was always told not to stretch with an injury. You saw Novak stretching all the time. You say to yourself, either they have a new method in Serbia, or it’s weird. Little things like that, he has his staff, but I’m too far to judge the authenticity of anything. It is true that it seems hard to believe.”

It is not the first time Djokovic has faced accusations that he has in some way exaggerated the significance of an injury. He encountered a similar situation during the 2021 Australian Open where he suffered an abdominal injury. After winning the tournament, he confirmed that he sustained a tear in the region. 

Speaking to journalists at Melbourne Park last month, the tennis star once again hit back at his critics and claimed that he was being singled out. 

“I leave the doubting to those people – let them doubt,” Tennis Majors quoted Djokovic as saying in Serbian following his fourth round win over Alex de Minaur. “Only my injuries are questioned. When some other players are injured, then they are the victims, but when it is me, I am faking it. It is very interesting… I don’t feel that I need to prove anything to anyone.
“I am not really interested at this point what people are thinking and saying. It is fun, it is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding me continues, narrative that is different compared to other players that have been going through similar situation. But I am used to it, and it just gives me extra strength and motivation. So I thank them for that.”

Djokovic has won 93 ATP titles during his career which is the fourth-highest tally in history. Only Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (102) and Jimmy Connors (109) have won more. 

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Nick Kyrgios Admits Assaulting Former Girlfriend But Avoids Prosecution

The tennis star says he ‘deeply regrets’ how he reacted during an argument with his former partner.

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Nick Kyrgios (AUS) playing against Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) in the third round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 6 Saturday 03/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

Nick Kyrgios will not be charged with assault despite pleading guilty to shoving over his former girlfriend following an argument. 

 

The Wimbledon finalist attended court on Friday after he was accused by his former partner, Chiara Passari, of assaulting her during an incident that took place on January 10th 2021. Kyrgios was initially charged following an argument which took place outside of Passari’s apartment in the inner-city Canberra suburb of Kingston. 

At a hearing at the ACT Magistrates Court, it was revealed that Kyrgios’ ex-girlfriend was standing in front of an Uber car door which prevented him from closing it before he pushed her over. When she fell to the ground, he was heard saying ‘seriously.’ In the minutes leading up to what happened, Kyrgios told Passari “leave me the f*** alone” and to “just f***ing piss off” when he was asked to get out of the car and calm down. He had called for an Uber ride following their argument. 

Passari, who didn’t report the incident to the police until 10 months after it happened, suffered a grazed knee and hurt her shoulder as a result of her fall, according to her legal filing. Kyrgios apologized for his actions two days later when the two met at a Canberra cafe. Unknown to him at the time, that conversation was recorded by Passari. The two continued their relationship for some months before breaking up. 

Magistrate Beth Campbell has ruled in Kyrgios’ favour despite him owning up to his actions. In her verdict, Campbell said the seriousness of the matter was ‘low’ and the tennis star was not likely to re-offend again. 

“You acted in the heat of the moment,” she said.
“I am dealing with you in the same way I would deal with any young man in this court. You are a young man who happens to hit a tennis ball particularly well.”

During the hearing, evidence was heard from Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, who said his mental health issues were ‘recurrent’ and he has suffered from thoughts of self-harm. Although Borestein says his condition has improved in recent times. Furthermore, Kyrgios’ lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith, said there was “a relationship between the mental health and the offending – even though he no longer suffers it to the same extent today.”

In a statement issued following the court’s decision, Kyrgios said he reacted ‘in a way he regretted’ and apologized for his actions. He went on to attribute what happened to his mental health condition at the time. 

“I respect today’s ruling and I am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” he said.
“I was not in a good place when this happened and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I am sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.
“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I have found that getting help and working on myself has allowed me to feel better.”

Before his guilty plea, Kyrgios had argued that the charge should be dropped on the grounds of his mental health but that appeal was withdrawn when the court found that he is not currently suffering from a major depressive illness. 

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