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



Casper Ruud on Tuesday in Melbourne (

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.


Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup

Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day



Image via Laver Cup twitter

After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.


Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”

American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.

“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”

After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:

“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”

The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:

“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”

Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”

Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.

Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.

T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2

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ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more



After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10


By Roberto Ferri

Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”

Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.

But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.

Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.

TOP 20

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A few comments:

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.

Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.

Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.

Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively  at the 2022 US  Open, drop 4 positions.

One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.


From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.

Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.


Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.

Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.

The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.

Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.


The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.

The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.

PositionPlayerCountryPtsYOB ATP rank
6Van AsscheFrance597200469
12Llamas RuizSpain3702002133

Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.


Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.

We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.

The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.

Seyboth Wild76Brazil30

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open



Love him, or hate him. But respect him.


No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.

Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.

Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.


Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.

It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.

Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.


At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.

The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.

Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.

Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.


Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.

Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.

The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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