Australian Open Daily Preview: The First Major of 2023 Begins - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: The First Major of 2023 Begins



Rafael Nadal’s sneakers highlight the years the defending champion has won this event (

The first Major of 2023 begins on Monday in Melbourne, Australia. 


In men’s singles, nine-time champion Novak Djokovic is a strong favorite to win his 10th Slam title down under, even despite concerns regarding a leg injury he suffered last week in Adelaide.  Winning this title would tie Djokovic with Rafael Nadal at 22 Majors apiece.  Novak of course was not allowed to play this event a year ago, and has not lost a match in Australia since 2018. 

Nadal is the defending champion and top seed, but has lost six of his last seven matches, and faces a tough first round draw on Monday in one of the ATP’s fastest-rising stars, Jack Draper.  The other men’s finalist from a year ago, Daniil Medvedev, is in the same quarter of the draw as Nadal, and will also play his opening match on Monday.

The women’s singles draw is headlined by 2022’s dominant World No.1 Iga Swiatek, who has drawn Wimbledon quarterfinalist Jule Neimeier in her first round match scheduled for Monday evening.  And the only two WTA players who have previously won this event, Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin, will meet in the first round on Monday afternoon.

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

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Jack Draper – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

A year ago, Nadal accomplished perhaps the most surprising and inspiring Major title run of his storied career.  After missing five months of competition due to foot surgery, Rafa arrived in Australia with fairly low expectations.  But the King of Clay went on to claim his 21st Major title in dramatic fashion, coming back from two sets down to defeat Medvedev in a five-and-a-half hour final.

A year later, Nadal’s chances of winning this event seem even slimmer.  He comes into the Australian Open having lost six of his last seven matches, as his chronic foot injury remains a significant issue.  A few weeks ago, Rafa revealed he’s received several more injections in his left foot since Wimbledon.

Draper is a 21-year-old lefty who started last season ranked 262nd in the world.  But thanks to a 46-19 record at all levels, which included four Challenger titles within the first three months of last year, the Brit is now ranked inside the top 40.  And just this week, he reached the semifinals in Adelaide, with victories over the likes of Karen Khachanov and Tommy Paul.

In his first match against Nadal, Draper has a legitimate chance to oust the defending champion.  While Rafa historically has a fantastic record against fellow lefties, he’s lost two of his last three matches against left-handers (Shapovalov, Norrie).  However, defeating perhaps the sport’s fiercest competitor of all-time in best-of-five remains a significant challenge.  And as Nadal reminded us last year, count Rafa out at your own risk.

Sofia Kenin vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – Third on Margaret Court Arena

It’s pretty wild that only two of the 128 players in the women’s singles draw have won this tournament, and they have been drawn against each other in the first round.  It’s now been 10 years since Azarenka completed her back-to-back title runs in Melbourne.  She was a modest 24-13 last season.  However, Vika ended the year with an impressive semifinal run in Guadalajara, where she beat Paula Badosa, Madison Keys, and Coco Gauff.

Kenin has withstood an extremely challenging time in her career since being named the 2020 WTA Player of the Year.  Across the past two years, Sofia has endured injuries, appendicitis, and both a split and reunion with her father as her coach.  Last season, she went 4-13 at tour level, losing nine consecutive matches between January and August.  Kenin ended the year playing lower-level events, and is now ranked 280th in the world, though she did advance to the semifinals this past week in Hobart as a wild card.

These players have split two previous meetings, which were remarkably different.  Four years ago in Acapulco on a hard court, Kenin outlasted Azarenka 7-5 in the third.  Three years ago in Rome on clay, Vika prevailed 6-0, 6-0.  Sofia surprisingly rebounded extremely well from that demoralizing loss, advancing to the final of Roland Garros just a few weeks later.  In their rubber match on Monday, Azarenka must be favored based on recent form, but I do expect Kenin to bounce back and become a factor again in 2023.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Jule Niemeier – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

When Australia’s Ash Barty retired from the sport after winning her home Slam last January, Swiatek wasted no time in becoming the WTA’s most dominant No.1 player in recent memory.  Iga went 67-9 last season, with eight titles, two of them Majors (Roland Garros, US Open).  She was a semifinalist here a year ago, and went 3-1 to start this season in the United Cup.

Niemeier also reached new heights in 2022.  The 23-year-old from Germany was a surprise quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, where she narrowly lost an excellent quarterfinal to Tatjana Maria 7-5 in the third.  Jule also advanced to the second week of the US Open, where she took the first set from Swiatek before losing 6-0 in the third.

That fourth round match in New York was their only previous encounter.  And considering Niemeier comes into this match on a four-match losing streak, Swiatek should comfortably advance on Monday evening.

Marcos Giron vs. Daniil Medvedev (7) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Since losing last year’s Australian Open final in such a devastating manner, Medvedev has not been the same player.  Daniil has only claimed two titles in the last 52 weeks, at 250 and 500-level hard court events.  He missed most of the clay court season due to a hernia injury, and failed to advance beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros or the US Open.  The Russian was not allowed to play Wimbledon.

Giron is a 29-year-old American who debuted inside the top 50 for the first time last year.  In September, he was the runner-up in San Diego.  But he is 0-3 lifetime at this event, and has drawn a top 10 seed in the first round for the third consecutive year, after previously drawing Nadal and Sascha Zverev.

Three years ago on a hard court, Medvedev defeated Giron in straight sets.  In the last match of the day on Rod Laver Arena, a similar result seems likely.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Katerina Siniakova vs. Coco Gauff (7) – Gauff lost in the first round of this event a year ago, but achieved her first Major final in singles at the next Slam.  And she’s off to a terrific start in 2023, as she won a title in Adelaide without dropping a set.  Siniakova won a hard court title this past September, and defeated Gauff in November during the Billie Jean King Cup finals.  Coco has taken their other three prior meetings.

Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Jaqueline Cristian – Pegula had a strong 2022, achieving three Major quarterfinals, and winning her first WTA 1000 event.  And Jess began 2023 by helping the United States win the inaugural United Cup, which included a decisive victory over Swiatek.  Cristian is a 24-year-old whose only win at a Major came at this tournament a year ago.

Anna Kalinskaya vs. Danielle Collins (13) – Collins was the runner-up to Ash Barty here last year, and was also a semifinalist in 2019.  Kalinskaya is 0-3 in the main draw of this event.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Marie Bouzkova (25) – Like Kenin, Andreescu is a former Major champion who has battled multiple injuries and illness across the last few years.  Bouzkova was a superb 42-14 last season, and was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist.  Bianca is 2-1 against Marie, though Bouzkova claimed their most recent meeting, two years ago in this same city.

Vasek Pospisil vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Auger-Aliassime leads this all-Canadian head-to-head 3-1, but Pospisil beat FAA the last time they played, three years ago in Vienna.  Felix accumulated 60 wins last season, and lost a near five-hour quarterfinal at this event to Medvedev.

Alex Molcan vs. Stan Wawrinka – Wawrinka was the champion here nine years ago, but only has 12 tour-level victories across the past two years.  Molcan is coached by longtime Djokovic mentor Marian Vajda, and debuted inside the top 40 last year.

Elena Rybakina (22) vs. Elisabetta Cocciaretto – The reigning Wimbledon champion continues to get no love from the scheduling committee, as she’ll be playing out on Court 13.  Cocciaretto is a 21-year-old Italian who played in the final of Hobart on Saturday.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Quentin Halys – Tsitsipas won 61 matches last season, and went 4-0 in the United Cup to start 2023.  Halys tested Djokovic last week in Adelaide, extending both their sets into tiebreaks, but he’s on a five-match losing streak in the main draw of this tournament.

Monday’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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