Tag: Novak Djokovic

2021 ATP World Tennis Tournament & Argentina Open preview

WITH only two past winners in the 2021 World Tennis Tournament draw, the odds are in favour of a first-time winner at the 500 Rotterdam event which will welcome a number of the top stars on Tour. With Novak Djokovic nursing a torn muscle, and Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem resting, Russian Daniil Medvedev will enter the tournament as top seed and favourite at the event.

Gael Monfils is a back-to-back winner, but has opted not to take part this year as he still battles coming back from injury and his own form, while Stan Wawrinka (2015) and Andy Murray (2009) are the only past winners of the event in the draw. Despite not featuring any of the Big Three – Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer – the next crop of talents are all attending, with Australian Open finalist Medvedev the pick to go deep given his recent form.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev have all been handed top four seedings at the exclusive event, while Felix Auger-Aliassime is also in the top eight alongside more experienced talents in Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin and Wawrinka. Aside from Goffin who has struggled of late, the rest of the seeds have been in some strong form, with the top four particularly favoured to once again continue their ATP Tour success.

Outside the top eight, Alex de Minaur is a huge threat, while young guns Ugo Humbert and Jannik Sinner are back again, as are the likes of Karen Khachanov and Hubert Hurkacz. Further down the list, John Millman will hope to turn around his poor start to 2021, with Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori past Top 10 talents who are always dangers at any level, as is Grand Slam winner Murray. In terms of local hopes, Botic Van De Zandschulp and Robin Haase have been handed wildcards, but face an incredibly uphill battle against the world’s best players.

If you had to pick a winner, Medvedev is the choice, though the stacked field with Cilic being the lowest ranked automatic entry outside of wildcards, means it is an incredibly talented draw.

 

ARGENTINA OPEN:

From the star-studded 500 tournament to a lower-ranked clay court event in Argentina, some of the top clay courters in the world will look to take full advantage of a weakened field to snare a title. Top seed Diego Schwartzman is able to remain in his home country following the Cordoba Open, and he will be joined by second seed and clay court specialist, Cristian Garin. Benoit Paire and Miomir Kecmanovic round out the top four seeds, with Paire grabbing his second win in 12 months, and the up-and-coming Kecmanovic in a similar form struggle.

Guido Pella is a threat in his home nation, with Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Laslo Djere and Pablo Andujar rounding out the top eight players and Top 60 talents at the event. The 2019 winner, Marco Cecchinato is back to try and win another title, ranked 79th in the world currently. Joao Sousa  – ranked 93rd in the world – is the lowest ranked automatic entry, though the Argentinian wildcards yet to be fully announced are always a threat.

Schwartzman and Garin are the clear and away standouts in this draw, and would make for an entertaining final.

Djokovic claims remarkable ninth Australian Open title

WORLD number one Novak Djokovic has edged ever closer to joining Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles after taking home his ninth Australian Open Grand Slam in straight sets last night. Taking on the in-form Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic fought past a tougher first set, to dismiss the reigning ATP Finals winner in straight sets, 7-5 6-2 6-2 and claim his 18th ATP Tour major.

“I think it was a very successful tournament and I’d like to praise [tournament director] Craig Tiley for a tremendous effort,” Djokovic said. “It was challenging on many different levels and Tennis Australia should be very proud for making it possible.”

Fans heading down to Rod Laver Arena predicted the night to be a nail-biter considering the form of Medvedev, and the muscle tear that has been plaguing Djokovic throughout the tournament that almost saw him bow out to Taylor Fritz in the fourth round. But instead it was the Serbian who raced away to a strong start going 3-0 up with an early break, forcing his opponent on the back foot. Medvedev fought back to secure a break himself, but with Djokovic up 6-5 in the first, he saw his chance. He lifted his aggression in the twelfth game and set up three set points, of which he made good on the third one to win the opening set 7-5.

The Serbian was far from clinical though, only serving the two aces and hitting 12 winners for seven unforced errors, compared to 12 and nine for Medvedev. His work at the net was already causing headaches for the Russian with all of his seven net charges being successful. The game became more about which player would yield first as Djokovic was not hitting his high volume of winners credit to Medvedev’s work rate across the court, but the Russian was also not able to really able to hold his own serve either, broken three times to one in the second set. Despite only winning seven less points than his opponent (20-27), Medvedev could not capitalise off the Serbian’s serve, and struggled on his own second serve.

The third set was even stranger with neither player serving an ace, but Djokovic well and truly in control of the match with consistent serving. He actually hit three less winners (4-7) but had eight less unforced errors (5-13) which was the story of the match. The world number one also broke twice from his two chances, and was more clinical at the net (83 to 67 per cent success), as he won seven more points than Medvedev for the set again (28-21). In the end, the match lasted just one hour and 53 minutes with the world number one taking home a remarkable ninth crown.

“I would like to thank this court, I would like to thank Rod Laver Arena, I love you each year more and more – the love affair keeps going,” Djokovic said.

“It has been definitely emotionally the most challenging Grand Slam that I ever had with everything that was happening, injury, off-the-court stuff, quarantines. It has been, least to say, a roller-coaster ride in the last four weeks,” he revealed.  “It was very challenging for me to keep my mind serene and keep my focus directed into what matters the most. I have put a lot of energy and time, along with my team, to be here sitting with a trophy. “So I’ll take a lot of positives out of this month here in Australia.”

While the disappointment for Medvedev was real – the Russian is still yet to win his maiden Grand Slam – he did receive some good news, with the fact he will become the world number three today, rising above US Open winner and last year’s Australian Open runner-up, Dominic Thiem.

“Congratulations to Novak and your team,” Medvedev said post-match. “Nine Grand Slams in Australia and 18 in total is an amazing thing and it is probably not your last one.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN MEN’S FINAL RESULT:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 7-5 6-2 6-2

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Semi-Final wrap: Medvedev books spot to face Djokovic in final

FOURTH seed Russian Daniil Medvedev will lock horns with world number one Novak Djokovic in a massive Australian Open final after earning his spot in the decider last night. The Russian won through in straight sets over fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-4 6-2 7-5 in two hours and nine minutes in an impressive performance.

Medvedev’s serving was on point, dominating Tsitsipas with 17 aces to three, at a high volume of 68 per cent efficiency. That was all he needed as he won 88 per cent of his first serve points – dropping just seven – as well as almost half of his second serve points. On the other hand, while Tsitsipas served at a 69 per cent efficiency, he won just 61 per cent of his first serve points.

The fourth seed was ruthless across the court, hitting 46 winners to 19 across the match, and only 21 unforced errors to 30 in a message to Djokovic to show he is ready to win a Grand Slam title. He broke five times from nine chances compared to his Greek opponents’ one from three, as well as winning 42 per cent of his receiving points compared to the fifth seed’s 23 per cent. One positive for Tsitsipas was his net dominance, claiming 24 of the 31 approach shots, while Medvedev won 54 per cent.

“It was definitely not easy, because we saw the match with Rafa (Nadal) was kind of the same score after two sets. [In] the third set, Rafa was dominating but didn’t manage to win the match, so I got a little bit scared and tight,” Medvedev said post-match. “It is the semi-final of a Slam… It was not easy, but I am happy I managed to switch my game on, especially in some tight moments on my serve and I am really happy to be in the final.”

The near-clinical second set was a highlight for the Russian, smashing 14 winners to only four unforced errors, while Tsitsipas claimed six and 11 respectively. Medvedev produced a whopping 84 per cent efficiency, and only dropped three points on serve, while his opponent won just 14 of 30 and was broken twice. The third set was closer as Tsitsipas tightened up with only one more unforced error to winner (eight to seven), but Medvedev stepped it up to slam home 18 winners to eight unforced errors and break a crucial second time in the final game of the match off a couple of forced errors to book his place in the final.

Medvedev’s victory meant the Russian has won 20 consecutive matches, including the clean sweep at the ATP Finals last year in a remarkable effort. The most in-form player on the ATP Tour will play the greatest Australian Open player in Djokovic when the pair meets tomorrow night.

”I don’t have an answer [to explain my run]. I was just working hard all my life and I am really happy at this moment,” Medvedev said. “It is going to stay with me… It is a great achievement.”

”I like that I don’t have a lot of pressure, because he (Djokovic) never lost in the eight times that he was here in the final. “It is he who has all the pressure, getting to Roger (Federer) and Rafa in the Grand Slam [leaderboard]. I just hope that I am going to get out there and show my best tennis. As we have seen, I can beat some big names if I play good so that is the main part. He has more experience, but he has more things to lose than me.”

SEMI-FINAL RESULT:

[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated [5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6-4 6-2 7-5

Picture credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Australian Open Men’s semi-final wrap: Djokovic ends Karatsev’s run to book ninth Aus Open final

NOVAK Djokovic will look to extend his stranglehold on the first Grand Slam of the year, having made his ninth Australian Open final after a relatively straightforward win over Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev. The 114th ranked Karatsev was the talk of the town the last two weeks, rolling past Top 30 players to reach a well deserved semi-final. Unfortunately it was the end of the road for the underdog as he met the world’s best player, and the top Australian Open player in history.

Djokovic won 6-3 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 53 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, booking his spot in the final to await the winner of either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas who play today. In his semi-final, Djokovic hit a whopping 17 aces to six, and finished with a serving efficiency of 68 per cent. He won 71 and 62 per cent of his first and second serve points in a dominant display. Karatsev was far from disgraced on serve, but was not as efficient, putting in just 52 per cent of his first serves, and then winning 65 per cent of them. His world class opponent took advantage off his second serve by winning 66 per cent of points on return.

In terms of winners, Karatsev actually hit more in-court with 18 to 13, but it was the consistency of Djokovic to his just 14 unforced errors, while the Russian conceded 30. Both players created numerous break points despite Djokovic’s dominance on serve, but again the world number one made the most of his chances, taking six of seven opportunities, while Karatsev finished off just two of his five chances. Overall, the Serbian star was just too good and booked a ninth Australian Open final, of which he has an 8-0 record.

“This is the best I’ve felt in the entire tournament, I had no pain, my best match by far,” Djokovic said post-match. “I’m thrilled to feel this way for sure. Recovery is the priority right now. I’m feeling the ball well, I’m playing well, I’ve had enough match play. Right now it’s about gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open.”

The world number one now has an extra day to recover compared to his opponent, as he waits to find out which of Medvedev or Tsitsipas will reach the final. Djokovic said he knows whoever makes it through will be a worthy opponent.

“Stefanos did incredibly well to somehow to turn it around,” Djokovic said of the fifth seed’s five-set comeback against Rafael Nadal. “That was probably the best match of the tournament so far, such a high level.

“Speaking of high level, Medvedev is the guy, playing the highest level of anyone in the last three or four months. “It’s going to be really interesting, always high intensity between them. “I’m going to take the popcorn and enjoy it.”

SEMI-FINAL RESULT:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-3 6-4 6-2

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Quarter Finals wrap: Tsitsipas stuns Nadal to face Medvedev in Australian Open semi-final

STEFANOS Tsitsipas has joined an incredibly rare club that features just Roger Federer and Fabio Fognini, in coming from two sets to love down to defeat Rafael Nadal in a five-set match. The fifth seed Greek sensation looked down and out when the Spaniard raced to a 6-3 6-2 lead in the pair’s semi-final, but Tsitsipas refused to give in, winning a crunch third set tiebreaker, then finding a way to plough through and win in four hours and five minutes, 3-6 2-6 7-6 6-4 7-5.

Each set was a little different, with both players hitting seven winners – including two aces – in the first set, but Tsitsipas was a bit loose with his shots, committing 12 unforced errors to five. The King of Clay only dropped eight points on serve, but the fifth seed was even more efficient with only six points lost, though somehow Nadal took full advantage to break him from the one opportunity the world number two had. The second set was more dominant for Nadal, whom while both served at just 50 per cent efficiency, the Spaniard won nine of 10 first serve points and seven of 10 second serve points, breaking twice from two chances. Nadal also hit 11 winners to six and had five unforced errors to eight. At two sets to love up, Nadal had hit 18 winners for only 10 unforced errors, while Tsitsipas had 13 and 20, though the key was Nadal taking all three break point chances as his Greek opponent had not created one yet.

Then the tide began to slowly turn. First it was off his serve, with Tsitsipas – though still serving at 56 per cent compared to 77 per cent – only dropped four points on serve, the same as Nadal. Neither player was giving an inch when on serve, with Nadal picking up the power for 14 winners, but he reached double-figure unforced errors with 11, while Tsitsipas went the other way, with nine and four. A 7-4 tiebreaker win gave the fifth seed a glimmer of home. Then Nadal’s serving started to uncharacteristically drop off as Tsitsipas stepped up. The Spaniard won just 65 per cent of his first serve points, and 45 per cent of his second serve points; Tsitsipas maintained a strong 86 and 73 per cent record. Again the Greek talent was more measured with nine and six winners and unforced errors respectively, but crucially picked up his first break from four chances, without conceding a break point. The stage was set for a ripping fifth set.

As if powered on by the imaginary crowd, Tsitsipas found a way to do something that so few had done before, lift against Nadal in the fifth set and go to another level. He produced a match-high seven aces in the deciding set, and served at a whopping 78 per cent efficiency. Nadal also lifted to go up to 70 per cent, and neither could break. Tsitsipas and Nadal both hit double-figure winners with 18 and 12 respectively, while the Greek fifth seed had just one break point opportunity, though in the weirdest of circumstances. As if the pressure had got to him, in a completely un-Nadal style, the Spanish number two hit four consecutive unforced errors to lose the eleventh game of the fifth set to love, and whilst he had a break point chance in the final game, and saved a match point, Nadal eventually went down thanks to a backhand winner from Tsitsipas who sealed the most remarkable win.

“I have no words to describe what has just happened on the court, my tennis speaks for itself,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to fight at such a high level and leave it out on the court. “I started very nervously. “I don’t know what happened after the third set. I flew like a bird and everything worked for me.”

It was one of the games of the tournament with Nadal smashing 58 winners to 49, and Tsitsipas having four less unforced errors (38-42). The Spaniard broke three times from four chances, while Tsitsipas broke twice from five, and just three points separated them by game’s end, as Tsitsipas won 145 total points to Nadal’s 142 to book his spot in the semi-final against Russian Daniil Medvedev.

“[Medvedev] plays very well and has been very consistent, with lots of consecutive wins,” Tsitsipas said. “I need to recover and have a good ice bath. I am looking forward to the match and each match I play here is an opportunity to play my best tennis. It will be amazing to see the crowds again.”

Medvedev’s win over compatriot Andrey Rublev was a little more clinical, winning 7-5 6-3 6-2  in two hours and five minutes. Both players have been in great form of late, and the fourth seed came through with the goods thanks to a dominant serving performance. Medvedev produced 14 aces to three, and won 80 per cent of his first serve points off a 60 per cent efficiency, while hitting 30 winners to 20 and conceding six less unforced errors (33-39). The higher ranked Russian also broke five times from 11 chances and won 38 per cent of his receiving points, while Rublev broke the once from five chances and won 27 per cent of his receiving points.

“Andrey was definitely one of the favourites to go far in this tournament,” Medvedev said. “To win this match in three sets, especially [with] how physical it was, was [an] amazing level from me. I’m really happy about it…. We had some unbelievable rallies. I think the match was high quality. It’s the first time to be honest [that] I saw Andrey tired.”

The quarter finals results mean that Nadal’s bid to win a standalone record 21 Grand Slams comes to an end, as does a bid to snatch the number one spot if he was to win the title over Novak Djokovic. Instead, Djokovic will break Federer’s record for the most weeks in the number one spot at 311. Djokovic takes on Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev tonight to decide the first finalist.

QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated [7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 7-5 6-3 6-2
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 3-6 2-6 7-6 6-4 7-5

Picture credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Quarter finals wrap: Russian’s run continues to set up ultimate semi-final challenge

NO one would have been surprised if prior to the tournament you had said eight-time Australian Open champion, world number one Novak Djokovic would be facing off in yet another semi-final at Melbourne Park. However his opponent on the other hand, 114th ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev is an obscure for a pick that proves sometimes real life can be better than fiction.

The 27-year-old had won three – yes just three – matches coming into the Australian Open in his career. In fact, the Russian had only played a total of 13  ATP Tour matches. Including qualifying, Karatsev has now piled on eight wins on the trot, though only five of those come as official ATP Tour wins. Not enough could be said about the sheer remarkable ability of his feat.

He knocked off Italian Gianluca Mager to bring up his first ever Grand Slam main draw win, which is more like a light applause and back patting. Then, he made Belarusian Egor Gerasimov – who has had his fair share of upsets over the years – look like a midweek social pennant player by destroying him 6-0 6-1 6-0 in 93 minutes. That caught everyone’s attention, but it was his straight sets dismissal of world number nine and eighth seed, Diego Schwartzman that really had jaws dropping.

Schwartzman might not have the most weapons, but her rarely drops games to much lower opponents, but he was bundled out in straight sets as well, 6-3 6-3 6-3 in the third round. When Karatsev was two sets to love down against Canadian young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime, it looked like the dream was over. Think again. After three hours and 25 minutes, Karatsev fought his way back from the brink to win 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-3 6-4 to book a quarter finals appearance.

Then, in his most recent outing, he came back from a set down against 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov – who was coming off a straight sets win over world number three and reigning Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem – to win 2-6 6-4 6-1 6-2. That match lasted two hours and 32 minutes, and kept the fairytale alive for the unlikely Russian qualifier who sent historians flicking through the history books to remember the last time a qualifier made the final four.

The fact of the matter was, Karatsev had actually made history. He became the first ever qualifier in the Open Era at the Australian Open to make a semi-final, and the first ever one on main draw debut to do so. He did it thanks to a powerful play against Dimitrov where he matched it with him blow-for-blow and then overcame him with 34 winners to 21, and only 10 more unforced errors (44-34).

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Of course it’s my first time playing [a Grand Slam] main draw, first time [in the] semis,” Karatsev said post-match. “It’s incredible.”

Both players hit nine aces, and Karatsev was more clinical on his serve with a 67 per cent first serve success rate, and 55 per cent second serve success rate. He broke eight times from 11 chances, making more of his opportunities than his Bulgarian opponent (four of 14), to book his place in the final four. Now the comparisons to his new opponent are mind-blowing before you even get into it.

Karatsev has won eight matches on the trot, the same number of Australian Open’s that Djokovic has. The world number one is vying for his 18th Grand Slam title, Karatsev still only has eight ATP Tour wins in his career. The Russian qualifier has more than doubled his career prize money from his run at the Australian Open, whereas for Djokovic, it is a drop in the ocean.

The official numbers say that heading into the 2021 Australian Open, Karatsev had earned $618,354 USD career prize money, whereas the world number one has pocketed a casual $145,861,177 in his time. The 3-10 win-loss record is compared to a remarkable 936-192 for the Serbian star. Finally, 81 career titles to zero. The head-to-heads could go on forever, but the storyline remains the same, the journeyman underdog who no one saw coming is now up against the world’s best player, at his most dominant tournament.

Djokovic got there thanks to a four-set win over sixth seed Alexander Zverev, defeating the German 6-7 6-2 6-4 7-6 to roll into the semis showing a potential injury was not going to impact him. He served 23 aces to 21, had a 73 per cent to 64 per cent serving efficiency, and broke six times to three throughout the match. He also produced three more winners (48-45), though was not as clinical as usual with 18 more unforced errors (56-38), a rare stat to lose to the usually inconsistent Zverev. In the end, he made his way through to face an opponent he never would have predicted in his wildest dreams.

“Down to the very last shot, it was anybody’s game, anybody’s match,” Djokovic said post-match. “[There were] a lot of nerves out there, a lot of pressure. Emotionally, [I] feel a little drained, honestly. It was a great battle. Congratulations to Sascha for a great tournament and a great battle today. Tough luck today, but we pushed each other to the limit.”

While Djokovic might not have expected Karatsev as an opponent, he had done his homework on him and is not taking him lightly given his strengths.

“To be honest, I hadn’t seen [Karatsev] play at all before the Australian Open,” Djokovic said. “Of course, I have seen him play during the Australian Open… He is a very strong guy. “Physically, he is just very strong. “He moves well [and] just has a lot of firepower from the back of the court. [He has a] great backhand. “[He is straight] from the Russian school of tennis, [they] always have great backhands. “He serves well and he is motivated. “He has nothing to lose.”

Already Karatsev is a winner in the rankings, bolting up a mammoth 72 spots from 114th to 42nd, even if he loses the semi, going ahead of names such as Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic and Nick Kyrgios in the process. If he wins, he will end his run in the Top 25 amongst the very top players on Tour, and everyone will be watching to see how he fares after what is a breakout tournament for the 27-year-old.

Unfortunately for the Russian, the other eight previous times Djokovic has reached an Australian Open semi-final, he has gone all the way. The winner of their semi-final will face the winner of the other semi-final, with two quarter finals to be completed today. An all-Russian battle between Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev takes place, as does world number two Rafael Nadal up against fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [6] Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-7 6-2 6-4 7-6
[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [18] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 2-6 6-4 6-1 6-2

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 16 wrap: Russians advance as Nadal set to face rested Tsitsipas in semis

JUST two matches were fully completed in the Australian Open men’s Round of 16 on day eight of the competition, with a total of eight sets played across the four matches. Second seed Rafael Nadal and fourth seed Daniil Medvedev moved through in straight sets, while fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas strolled into the quarter finals, and seventh seed Andrey Rublev only played two sets before booking his place in the final eight.

Nadal booked his spot in the quarter finals with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini in two hours and 16 minutes. Playing a consistent brand of tennis all tournament, the world number two stepped it up a gear against the talented Fognini, only hitting 20 unforced errors to the Italians’ 35, whilst having just eight less errors.

“When you go on court against Fabio you worry,” Nadal said post-match. “There can always be problems. I was just lucky that when he broke me [in the second set] I responded immediately and held the score. Today was very humid and quicker during the day, which I like, but I have to adapt to every condition.”

Fognini served one extra ace (7-6), but Nadal was more consistent with a whopping 77 and 69 per cent success rate from his first and second serve, dropping just 19 points for the match. By comparison, Fognini only won 64 and 41 per cent of his first and second serve points, and broke twice from six chances, though defended bravely to save 13 break points. It mattered little however as Nadal did break six times during the straight sets win.

Next up is Tsitsipas, who did not even take to the court after the other Italian remaining in the Australian Open draw, Matteo Berrettini, pulled out prior to the match due to injury.

“It will be a big challenge and today’s win was good for my confidence,” Nadal said. “I will need to be ready. “My back is holding up and tomorrow’s practice will be important preparation.

“[The] first set, without a doubt, was my best level in the tournament. My physical condition needs to keep improving, but I think [today’s] match helps. I was not able to practise the proper way for the past 19 days, but yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work in practice.”

It is an all-Russian quarter final in the other match following Medvedev’s straight sets triumph over American talent Mackenzie McDonald. The world 192nd had a solid win, with four set victories over Marco Cecchinato and 22nd seed Borna Coric, before toppling Lloyd Harris in the Round of 32. He was no match for the impressive Medvedev, who won 6-4 6-2 6-3 in just 89 minutes.

In that time Medvedev broke six times from seven chances, and won 78 per cent of his first serve points. McDonald was competitive with only eight less winners (21-29) and only two less non-ace winners after Medvedev produced seven aces to one. It was the Russian’s consistency with his shots, producing 15 unforced errors to McDonald’s 23, while winning 60 per cent of his second serve points and 40 per cent of his receiving points compared to his American’s 43 and 25 per cent respectively.

“It’s an exciting moment [to be] in [the] quarter-finals in Australia for the first time, that’s a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said post-match. “I want more all the time, but step by step. “So this is amazing.

“When you play Mackenzie, many times he’s going to be in control of the games and you just need to defend,” Medvedev said. “I knew that I needed to play a lot of low balls, because he plays really flat and aggressive. “If you give him high balls, he’s going to try to destroy them. “That’s what he did in a few moments.

“I was just trying to stay as much as possible in the points… and I managed to take all my chances today.”

An abdominal injury to Norway’s Casper Ruud allowed in-form rising Russian talent Rublev to book an all-Russian battle with Medvedev in the quarter final. Leading 6-2 7-6, the seventh seed was in control over the 24th seed who was playing in his first Grand Slam fourth round match. It became too much though, and after losing the second set, opted to pull out and hand Rublev safe passage into the final eight.

In those two sets, Rublev won nine of his 10 points approaching the net, breaking four times to two, and winning 77 and 57 per cent of his first and second serve points, Ruud was still solid with a 61 per cent success rate off his first serve, but only 44 per cent off his second. He also had a winner to unforced error ratio of 20-21, while Rublev was slightly better at 22-17.

Like Medvedev, Rublev was thinking of his nation and friends when it came to taking on the world number four.

“At least one of us [Russian players] will be in the semis,” Rublev said post-match. “At least that’s the good news. But it’s going to be a tough match. I mean, last time he beat me in the quarters in the US Open. Now we’re again in quarters in the Australian Open. So we’ll see what’s going to happen. I hope we can show a great fight and great level.”

The results mean for the first time, three Russian will compete in the quarter finals at the same Grand Slam as qualifier Aslan Karatsev is set to take on 18th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov today. World number one Novak Djokovic will hope to pull through injury worries when he locks horns with sixth seed Alexander Zverev in the other quarter final played today.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 6-4 6-2 6-3
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GER) defeated [9] Matteo Berrettini (UTA) Walkover
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [24] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-2 7-6 RET

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 16 wrap: Dimitrov destroys tired Thiem as Karatsev’s giant-killing run continues

A COUPLE of massive upsets in the Round of 16 blew one quarter of the Australian Open men’s draw right open following day seven’s results yesterday. Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev looked finished when he was two sets to love down against 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, only to claw his way back and win in a mammoth come-from-behind five-set win. Karatsev’s victory was not the only upset of the day, with 18th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov destroying a tired Dominic Thiem in straight sets.

In a match that lasted three hours and 25 minutes, the 114th ranked Karatsev – who had previously never won a Grand Slam main draw match won his seventh consecutive match, and the toughest thus far, coming from being 6-3 6-1 down against the 20-year-old Canadian. Finding a way through, he bounced back to win the final three sets 6-3 6-3 6-4 in a classic contest.

“It was really tough in the beginning to play with him,” Karatsev said post-match. “He’s a really good player and he’s playing really fast. It took me two sets to find a way how to play.”

Auger-Aliassime hit 11 aces to nine, and was more efficient upon return with five of his six break point opportunities taken, but it was Karatsev’s consistency with a 77 per cent first serve winning percentage, and controlling the net (80 per cent success), as well as hitting eight more winners (37-29).

It is beyond belief that the Russian journeyman has made a Grand Slam quarter final, having a career Tour record of 3-10 and winning just over $600,000 USD in prize money. If Karatsev can topple Dimitrov in the quarter finals, he will have made more money in the Australian Open than he has in his entire career, with a $653,225 USD paycheck.

Dimitrov’s straight sets triumph over Thiem was nowhere near the same level of tightness, with the Bulgarian 18th seed winning the first two sets narrowly 6-4 6-4 after being down breaks in both, before blowing the Austrian away 6-0 in the final set. He won the last eight games of the match to book his spot in the next round.

“I think the key was that I was able to keep a consistency throughout the whole match,” Dimitrov said. “I was playing well. He was up a break in both [the first and second] sets. “It was 3-1, 40/15 in the first set. I could have easily slipped that set.”

Now the Bulgarian goes from last year’s Australian Open runner-up and ATP Finals runner-up to a little known 27-year-old Russian qualifier. Despite the consistent quality difference in his two opponents, Dimitrov is not reading anything into rankings.

“I will treat this match no differently,” he said. “I will still go through my routines. “I’m still going to do my work. “It’s just honestly another match. “I’m not going to think of what the guy has done, what he has accomplished or what is going on. “Clearly, in order for him to be here, he’s done something right, and he’s playing great tennis right now. “Of course, he’s a dangerous player.”

Returning to normal programming, top seed Novak Djokovic overcame big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in the late match last night in four sets, whilst German sixth seed Alexander Zverev won in straight sets over 23rd seed Dusan Lajovic 6-4 7-6 6-3. The winners will now face off in a massive quarter final.

In today’s fourth round clashes, world number two Rafael Nadal takes on Italian firebrand Fabio Fognini for the right to face either fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or ninth seed Matteo Berrettini. While outside Rod Laver Arena, fourth seed Daniil Medvedev clashes with giant-killing Mackenzie McDonald, as seventh seed Andrey Rublev locks horns with 24th seed Casper Ruud.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) [14] Milos Raonic (CAN)
[18] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4 6-4 6-0
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [23] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4 7-6 6-3
[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-3 6-4

Australian Open Men’s Round of 32 wrap: Medvedev survives five-setter as top seeds advance

SIX of the eight top 16 seeds will compete in the fourth round of the Australian Open, after all the higher ranked players won on day six of the Grand Slam. Seeds featured in seven of the eight matches, three of which were all seeds. In the sole unseeded match, United States’ Mackenzie McDonald won in straight sets over South African Lloyd Harris to be the clear underdog in the bottom half of the draw.

The match of the day was easily fourth seed Daniil Medvedev‘s five-set win over 28th seed Serbian Filip Krajinovic. The Russian looked to have everything under control early, before Krajinovic hit back wiht the next two sets. The fourth seed steadied in the final set to storm away and win 6-0 in the fifth for a 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 victory.

Medvedev dominated in terms of serving with 15 aces to two, whilst winning 77 per cent of his first serve points to the Serbian’s 64 per cent. Krajinovic made the most of his chances at the net however, winning 35 of 47 approaches and hit only three less winners when excluding aces (34-37).

“He played unbelievable, especially in the fourth set,” Medvedev said post-match. “Third set I had some chances… He raised his level. I tried to change my position on the return in the fifth set and it seemed to be working well, I guess.”

Compatriot Andrey Rublev advanced through to the fourth round in easier fashion, defeating veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, 7-5 6-2 6-3. Of the eight players winning through, two were the Russian seeds, and the other two were the Italian seeds. Matteo Berrettini fought off a determined Karen Khachanov to win in three tiebreakers 7-6 7-6 7-6, while 16th seed Fabio Fognini was too strong for the last Australian man in Alex de Minaur.

Fognini won 6-4 6-3 6-2 in the later match, whilst over on Rod Laver Arena, second seed Rafael Nadal booked his spot in the Round of 16 with a straight sets win over Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie. Also through to the next stage were fifth seed Greek talent Stefanos Tsitsipas who defeated Swede Mikael Ymer in straight sets, while 24th seed Norwegian Casper Ruud make his first ever Grand Slam fourth round appearance with a four-set win over Moldovan Radu Albot.

Ruud was clinical in his win, having never made it into an Australian Open third round before, producing nine aces to three against Albot. He won 50 of 58 first serve points, and was more clinical on his second serve with a 63 per cent success rate. Ruud also broke five times from 12 chances compared to Albot’s two from five.

The fourth round matches set up from the day’s results sees Nadal and Fognini going head-to-head to play the winner of Tsitsipas and Berrettini. In the other quarter, Medvedev and McDonald lock horns, as Rublev and Ruud do battle as well. In today’s matches, top seed Novak Djokovic will face 14th seed Canadian Milos Raonic, whilst up the other end, Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev. In the other two matches, third seed Dominic Thiem and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov will face off, while Alexander Zverev takes on Dusan Lajovic.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 7-5 6-2 705
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated [28] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-4 6-1 6-1
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-2 6-3
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [19] Karen Khachanov (RUS) 7-6 7-6 7-6
[16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated [21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-3 6-4
[24] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Radu Albot (MDA) 6-1 5-7 6-4 6-4
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 7-6 6-1 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 32 wrap: The greatness of Dominic Thiem shines through in a classic

IN the most highly-anticipated match of day five, world number three Dominic Thiem came back from two sets-to-love down to defeat Australia’s own Nick Kyrgios 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 in a thriller on John Cain Arena.

The match was initially all about Kyrgios, as he came out of the blocks flying. He broke in the first game— the only break point opportunity for either man in the opening set— and won 83 per cent of his points on his first serve. The second set was similar, as Kyrgios was up and about while Thiem struggled to make an impact with his returns. Kyrgios got his break in the ninth game and served out the set to take a commanding lead. Thiem almost lost another break in the opening game of the third set, but he held on despite constant pressure from Kyrgios and the Australian crowd.

From there, the narrative shifted. It was no longer about Kyrgios and his tricks, it was about the greatness of Thiem. At one stage, Thiem won 22 consecutive points on serve and, to put it simply, never gave Kyrgios a chance. In the final three sets, the Austrian won a staggering 19 of 22 points on his second serve, not to mention over 80 per cent of points on his first serve. It was a clinic from the reigning US Open champion, as he reduced his unforced errors and started to show a much grander intensity.

To Kyrgios’ credit, he tried absolutely everything to turn the match back in his favour. Slower serves, underarm serves, drop shots, tweeners, arguing with the chair umpire, chatting with the crowd; it was a very entertaining Kyrgios showcase. Unfortunately for the Australian, he was up against a man that would never lay down.

The ability to persist in the longer rallies combined with his incredible serving made Thiem unstoppable. He capitalised on his first match point by hitting a signature backhand bullet down the line. After the match, Thiem reflected on his performance and the difficulty of playing Kyrgios in front of his home fans.

“There are easier things than playing Nick at his home tournament on his favourite court,” Thiem said. “He is a huge player when he is on fire like today. “When I was down two break points in the first game of the third set, I was considering the prospect of losing. “But I kept fighting and with the break in the third set, I thought there was a chance to turn it around. The longer the match went on, the more comfortable I felt.

“I stood further behind the baseline to return his serves in order to read his serve better and I got more looks to break him. “I always prefer playing in front of a crowd, even if they are for their local hero, but I accepted it. “Tonight was epic and it was a great match.”

This result will give Thiem plenty of confidence going into the second week, so do not be surprised if he works his way into a second consecutive Australian Open final. His biggest threat on that side of the draw is world number one Novak Djokovic, who survived a major scare against American 27th seed Taylor Fritz. The Serbian pulled out his 7-6 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 victory in just under three-and-a-half hours.

In other results, Felix Auger-Aliassime was too strong for Denis Shapovalov in the battle of Canadian youngsters, taking it out in straight sets 7-5 7-5 6-3. This was Auger-Aliassime’s first Grand Slam victory against Shapovalov. He will take on 27-year-old qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round, who produced the biggest upset of the day to defeat eighth seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-3 6-3. Karatsev hit 50 winners in the clash compared to Schwartzman’s five, which was particularly impressive given that it was his first ever match against a player ranked inside the ATP Top 10.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev looked fantastic in his straight sets win over France’s Adrian Mannarino, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic hit 48 winners in his victory against Spain’s Pedro Martinez, and Canada’s Milos Raonic was too good for Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.

In tomorrow’s matches, Australia’s final men’s championship hope Alex de Minaur will take on 16th seed Fabio Fognini in a fascinating matchup. Meanwhile, 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will aim to continue his outstanding start to the tournament against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated  [27] Taylor Fritz (USA) 7-6 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [32] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 6-3 6-1
[14] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-6 5-7 6-2 6-2
[18] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [15] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-0 1-0 (retired)
[20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [11] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 7-5 7-5 6-3
[23] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) defeated Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-7 7-5 6-1 6-4
[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [8] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: ATP Tour