2022 Australian Open Men's & Women's Round Three Writeup
Update : All 3rd round matches have now been added below :
WTA Singles :
Barty vs Giorgi :
Ash Barty’s first test will come against Camila Giorgi. Giorgi made quick work of the first set against Martincova and despite getting broken serving for it, she was able to put away the tiebreaker. It’s a mark of form to be able to regroup after a setback. I think a lot of opposing coaches will be crossing their fingers that Giorgi’s offense is sharp tomorrow, because she hits the ball flat and goes sharp to the corners. Barty’s defending though is something that is generally good enough to erode a player who’s error prone, and Giorgi has an error per game sort of approach. Add in the points Barty earns, and this might be a straightforward win for Barty. I do expect Giorgi to hold serve a decent chunk of the time, but Barty in 2.
Anisimova vs Osaka :
Anisimova looked genuinely happy to beat Bencic and it’s really easy to root for her. Her power is legit, and he commitment to offense is something that hurt her for a few seasons but it always means she’s at the top of the game whenever she’s connecting. This next match is probably her best chance to beat Osaka, because the former champ is a tiny bit rusty, and every round she wins will see a sharper and more confident version of her. Brengle was able to earn a number of break points, but she doesn’t have the firepower on serve to keep Osaka from attacking. Anisimova has that, so the big question will be how close to her peak Osaka is. Her forehand is still the biggest one on tour. When she connects she’s able to stretch any opponent off the court and this is half the reason she wins so consistently in big events. Having that ability to score quickly leaves you fresh round after round. Osaka is generally a tremendous defender because of her footspeed, but fatigue is an enemy that some have worried about for her here. Since Anisimova is playing so well, there is a chance for the upset. It’ll take a solid performance from start to finish though. If Osaka had rough patches against Brengle, Anisimova has a puncher’s chance to grab the same success. Osaka in 3.
Parrizas-Diaz vs Pegula :
Nuria got a great bonus from Zanevska’s withdrawal with a leg issue, and I hope she recovers in time for clay season since she’s an absolute terror on the dirt. In the early going this season Pegula was struggling, but she really stepped it up in the last round to overcome a break deficit and beat Pera in straight sets. Since Parrizas Diaz isn’t really an offensive terror, this is one where Pegula’s consistency makes her a very tough out for NPD. If Pegula finds her serve, she should win easily. Pegula in 2.
Kudermetova vs Sakkari :
Sakkari was able to shut Zheng down, and it appears I have some work to do to understand when Qinwen is going to ball as opposed to when she’s going to spray unforced errors. It was a good win for Sakkari though, and it sets up the second match in a row that I think she’s going to lose. Kudermetova was nearly perfect in sections of her match against Ruse, and thought she went down 5-2 in the second set, she found her best tennis when she needed it, hitting the baseline 3 times in a row at the end of the match. It was a solid performance and the kind of tennis she’ll need against Sakkari. Kudermetova plays an aggressive but consistent baseline game, and her serve seems greatly improved this season. Sakkari can certainly win here, but she’s the one with more question marks about her level. Sakkari will definitely end this with more unforced errors, and I think that’ll be hard to overcome against such a quality opponent. Kudermetova in 3.
Krejcikova vs Ostapenko :
Ostapenko got a real boost late in the match against Riske when her forehand started landing down the line. Her errors are a real issue, but when she connects her ability to hit through the court makes her very dangerous. Krejcikova doesn’t give up the short balls that Riske does though, and Riske’s serve disappeared late in the match. I do enjoy watching Ostapenko lose, but my new hobby is watching her argue with Hawkeye, realize there is no recourse, and then shake her head to confirm to herself that it is wrong. Krej is way too consistent to lose here, but she’ll need to keep her level up because Ostapenko is very capable of getting hot for a few games late in a set. Krecijkova in 2.
Azarenka vs Svitolina :
Harmony Tan hit a wall against Svitolina, and had to retire late in the third. It was a good run for her, but this level can wear you down. For Svitolina, it was a good performance until late in the second set where she lost her game. It makes for a tricky matchup here against Azarenka, who didn’t blink at all against Teichmann. There were a few quick lopsided matches by the seeds in this event, and Azarenka was one of the quickest. Azarenka leads this 5-0 and it’s about to be 6. Svitolina has been better this week but it’s still not her best tennis, and Azarenka looks very motivated and is moving the ball well. Azarenka in 2.
Keys vs Wang :
Wang got extremely lucky to get past Alison Van Uytvanck, and her reward is another tremendous server with lasers (actual real life lasers). This is a step up though, and Madison Keys is really unsettling her opponents thus far. Wang had trouble with AVU until fatigue set in, and Keys is a lot stronger. Cristian wasn’t able to do much in the first, and it’s possible Wang will suffer a similar fate. Wang has experience outlasting big hitters, but Keys should be able to notch a good enough lead to really apply pressure to Wang’s serve. Keys in 2.
Kostyuk vs Badosa :
Kostyuk stuck with the plan and played very measured tennis for the whole first set. When she finally got a lead in the tiebreaker, she immediately went for the gusto and almost gave it away. The edge in ballstriking was significant though and Kostyuk is tremendous when she keeps the ball in court. It’s a big win for her to be able to manage her emotions and see the results. For a young player, these matches are as educational as they are lucrative. Coaches can tell you how things work, but until you see the ball go through the hoop, you don’t quite buy into it. Badosa zipped Trevisan in the first, and only allowed 3 games in the second. She’s zooming through this draw, and the scary thing about her game is how simple it looks. She’s not swinging terribly hard, or going for extra dangerous shots. Badosa will be able to hit with Kostyuk in a way Tormo wasn’t, and has the same level of crafty defense. Add in her tremendous serving, and this feels like a match where 4 and 4 is a good result for Kostyuk. Badosa in 2.
Tauson vs Collins :
Whoops. Clara Tauson was ready. Kontaveit played moderately well, but Tauson’s power unravelled her game. In the second she started to go a bit smaller on offensive attempts, and Tauson was able to get back into rallies well and force errors. It was the best match Tauson has played on tour, and she plays a very similar player in the next round. Collins is through after a pretty quick win against Konjuh. Collins moved her opponent consistently, and never gave Konjuh a chance. As a defender, she’s mediocre at times, and while she covers the court, she doesn’t tend to get herself out of trouble. This next match is one that Tauson can win, but she has to stay on Collins’ forehand. When Collins gets to dictate play with her backhand, she’s very hard to read and tends to win. It’s the same formula as Kenin, and when you let her get inside the baseline, her forehand is effective as well. The problem for her will be getting there. Tauson will have the better serve here, and her power is capable of pressuring Collins into misses. If you look at some of Collins’ last losses, they’re to Jabeur, Pegula, Rogers, Sabalenka. Great players, but player who hit a heavy ball. It’s possible here that the youngster gets another huge win, but this should be an even contest. Feels like the WTA’s version of the FAA Evans matchup, where one player is extremely skillful but the other might just outhit them anyway. Tauson in 3.
Mertens vs Zhang :
Rybakina just wasn’t ready to ball at this event, almost crashing out in round one and having to withdraw down a set and a break against Zhang. for Shuai, this is a welcome result after some middling seasons. Her next match is a tough one, since Mertens is one of the only consistent baseliners who regularly competes at the top level. It’s one thing to hang in there in early rounds and edge Bouzkova’s and Putintseva’s, but Mertens wins sets against players who go on to win the tournament. Her defense is there, but she can also create and at times her spot-serving is very useful. She’ll like her chances here, and confidence is important for the Belgian. Mertens in 2.
Halep vs Kovinic :
Quick win for Halep. She really looks at her best to start the year, and her draw is opening up nicely. Danka Kovinic started this week in very bad form, and her leg injury last year meant that she’d be starving for points. A third round appearance is just what the doctor ordered, and it was a strange but gutsy performance against Raducanu. Emma had blisters on her hand, and after losing a close first set, resorted to slicing every forehand in the second. It somehow worked for a while, and Kovinic was able to outwork her in points but only if she went there 4-5 times in a row. She went away from the plot late and hit to Raducanu’s backhand, and was immediately punished. Raducanu leans into her backhand, and every subsequent swing put Kovinic in worse position. Raducanu started swinging her forehand again at the end of the second, and the possum strategy worked wonders. In the third set Raducanu started hitting her forehand full-time again, and the regular pace of the ball let Kovinic adjust. She started to dig into rallies, and Emma found herself on the losing end of long rallies. It was a great win for Kovinic, and she went for big shots on every big point so she really deserves it. She’s won so far by defending and hitting bigger than her opponents, and that won’t be enough here. Halep in 2.
Zidansek vs Cornet :
Upset of the event has to go to Cornet, who beat Muguruza in straights with excellent depth on her shots and a bit of help from Garbiñe’s impatience. I had kinda forgotten the Muguruza early round losses that are relatively hard to explain, but I do enjoy an underdog story so this is pretty cool. Zidansek continued to win matches, and got a bit easier of a victory over Watson (they went three a week ago). This is an interesting match, because Zidansek has juuuuuuust enough offensive ability to beat Cornet, but juuuuuuuuuust weak enough of a backhand for Cornet to drag her into long rallies. Cornet has the hot hand here, but I am not convinced that Zidansek will help her in the way that Muguruza did. Muguruza tends to have no adjustments during a match. She stays on the baseline, and hits big. If she finds the net, that’s fine. Zidansek hits with more shape, and works the point. I find this to be a dead-even matchup, and if Zidansek can keep her backhand deep in the court, she’ll win. If she loses length on that wing though, it’ll be tough for her to find enough clean forehand winners against Cornet’s defense to get through. Someone in three (minor nod to Zidansek).
Swiatek vs Kasatkina :
Getting to that part of the draw where everyone is playing great. Swiatek crushed Peterson, and credit to Rebecca for fighting hard til the end. Swiatek has shown this week that she’s able to keep her errors down, and that her ballstriking is too fast for the average defense. Kasatkina has been a similar level of dominant but it’ll be tough for her to score here. Lack of power has always bit her in the big matches (she has some heartbreaking sets against peak Sabalenka that come to mind) and her best game here may still leave Swiatek a window to score cheap points on serve. Swiatek in 2 close sets.
Cirstea vs Pavlyuchenkova :
Pavs is through in a straightforward win over Stosur. She played decent but it’s hard to tell how this one will go. Cirstea had trouble early against Kucova but once she got in a rhythm it was smooth sailing. Pavs has won their last three meetings, but the last one was all single break sets and ended in three. Cirstea’s issue here will be Pavs not really having a target to hit to. Her opponent is very consistent, and hits a really heavy ball. Her serving is underrated, but she can get herself out of trouble. It’s a player who always plays well, and occasionally plays great. For Cirstea to win, she needs a comprehensive and mercurial offensive performance. Against Kvitova, there was one. Against Kucova, there was one for half the match. This is as good a chance for Cirstea to win, and if I didn’t see the H2H I’d be picking here. As it is, I still think this goes to three. Someone in three.
Kanepi vs Inglis :
Kanepi looks like a threat to come out of this section. She’s serving well, is crushing winners on both wings, and the fast courts are preventing her from getting dragged into the long rallies that can leave her fatigued when she gets to the biggest of names. This next match is one she should definitely win as well. Inglis played tremendous in round one against Fernandez, but had a very tense affair with Baptiste. Both players look tight and Inglis gave back a few breaks in the first set but was able to hold on. That proved vital as Baptiste found her game in the second and rolled. Crowd support and just being overall a better player at this juncture helped Inglis through in the third. Kanepi won’t give her chances, and the pace she hits with coupled with the consistency means Inglis will have a hard time imposing herself in this battle. I think nerves will lead to a small loss of composure if she goes down in the scoreline as well. Kanepi in 2.
Vondrousova vs Sabalenka :
This is it! After two rounds of doubting Sabalenka but not really believing her opponents are strong enough to get the job done, I expect the road to end here. Vondousova dispatched Samsonova while she was playing well. She lost range with her forehand for a while, but the defense was clutch when she needed it and her backhand is very dependable. Sabalenka played a really sloppy match against Wang, and was down and looking pretty miserable on serve. She can’t land her serve, and I don’t expect her to be as unfocused against Vondrousova but I do expect Marketa to fold her up when she gets a lead. Vondrousova’s defending is world class and she’s unlikely to leave the ball short enough for Sabalenka to outhit here. Expecting two short sets, but Sabalenka’s best tennis can always steal a set if it randomly shows up. Vondrousova in 2.
ATP Singles :
Kecmanovic vs Sonego :
The price was a bit short for Tommy Paul against Kecmanovic, and he was a bit slower than usual moving to the ball. He was able to save a few breaks and had chances (all three sets went to tiebreakers), but fatigue seemed to be an issue and Kecmanovic may play a bit too conservative at times but his arm was very fresh for this one. While these two traded fast paced rallies, Otte and Sonego had an old-school style servers battle. Sonego didn’t use his backhand for the first 3-4 games of the match, and he opened up the match looking like someone who knew exactly how to beat his opponent. Otte broke early which sealed the first set, but Sonego constantly kept him moving and Otte outplays his physical ability but he’s a bit too slow on defense to run the back and forth sprints that Sonego stuck to.
It’s rare for Sonego to play his best tennis, but it’s a welcome thing. When he’s on, he can beat anyone (has a win against Djokovic on his resume). He’ll be a difficult match for Kecmanovic, but the question is whether he can hit through Miomir in the same way he did Otte. Kecmanovic is obviously a much better defender, and his backhand is leagues better than Otte. Since Kecmanovic has been slumping, it’s hard to gauge what the ceiling of this run is. One round in a row shouldn’t be considered a run, but beating Tommy Paul (even fatigued) still takes some good offensive play. This will likely end up in the tiebreakers that the previous match did, but Sonego is fresh and serving well. If he keeps his unforced errors down he should edge past, but this is unlikely to end quickly. Sonego in 4-5.
Monfils vs Garin :
Monfils is coming off a title run, and a very quick win against Bublik. He might be playing the best tennis of his career, and this is another extremely good draw. Christian Garin is likely to frustrate and wear down many opponents. His play is steady and he’s at his best in a 3/5 format because physical strength is his best attribute. Garin is good enough to play long rallies with Monfils, but there’s a big disparity here in the serving department. The courts are playing really fast and we haven’t quite seen a defensive player drag down a peak offense yet. Fatigue and physical issues have been a problem in the past with Monfils, but most of his ankle-checking and doublin over dramatically seem to have vacated the premises. Garin’s run was good and the extra points at a hardcourt major are great for his season, but Monfils should win this in 3-4.
Korda vs Carreño Busta :
Australian crowds are somehow becoming my favorite thing. There doesn’t seem to be a particular rhyme or reason for who they heckle, and even though it’s a bit over the line sometimes it’s also some really funny stuff. A few refs have handled it well, and a few refs have stayed quiet. The admonishments (is that a word?) have usually been immediately heckled, and the “Quiet please” has been echo’d on with many “QUOOOOYITTT PLEEEEESE”s from the crowd. Yesterday Moutet had a particularly festive crowd, who genuinely made noises and giggled and shouted whatever popped into their head. It was frustrating for Moutet, but it seemed like it was very results-dependent when he complained. The times where things seemed messed up were the good-natured but lowkey ignorant “oui oui” that a few were shouting after Moutet served an ace, and the comments and cheers that came between 1st and 2nd serves. Moutet asked the ref a few times to intervene, but the ref said nothing at all until he snapped at the offending party at around 5-5 in the fifth and said “if you want you stay at the match you have to behave”. Could have, and likely needed to be done a long time ago, because Moutet’s complaints had turned the crowd against him.
“Send us all home, Korda” was the plea by the end, because honestly this was the longest match of the tournament. These two played for a whopping 4 hours and 47 minutes, and all of it was high quality. After a number of quick points against Norrie, Korda found no such luck against Moutet. Moutet was able to return every serve, and though Korda was inside the baseline for almost the entire match, he couldn’t find clean winners. Moutet his nearly 100 lobs and made get after get. He didn’t go for much on his backhand, but he was very careful to hit them all down the center of the court. It kept Korda from being able to create the sharp angles he can and when he went inside out he generally found himself fading back in the court to respect Moutet’s forehand down the line. On Moutet’s end, he served incredibly well (more unreturned serves than Korda), and utilized the dropshot to near perfection. Both players held from 0-40 in the 5th set and Korda hit a shot in the tiebreaker that I’ve never seen before (go to around 5:30 in the extended highlights video on youtube to see it).
Elsewhere, Pablo Carreño Busta played a very game Tallon Griekspoor. Tallon was controlling rallies early but couldn’t find his way out of them. He was going with extra power rather than shape, and PCB frustrated him into making minor errors. There were some break points and a number of close games, but Pablo seemed like he was just a tiny bit better. Somehow though, Tallon turned things around. The cumulative defending must have caught up with PCB, because he gifted Tallon a tiebreaker win with a few simple errors, and went away in the fourth. In the end, the Spaniard closed out, but it was a really impressive feat to be able to unravel Griekspoor in the beginning. Korda playing 5 sets could play a role in him not serving his best, but he didn’t seem fatigued at the end of the match with Moutet. Sebastian has a way of jogging around the court and seeming like he’s playing at half speed. This reminds me a bit of a higher level version of Sonego Kecmanovic,but it’s easy to like PCB in this one. He started off the year great, his physical fitness is top level, and he’s extremely disciplined with his shot selection. Korda will be a bit tougher than Griekspoor because he hits bigger, but his movement is a notch behind what Tallon can manage so PCB will know that working the point is very important. It’s been a little windy on outside courts, which was bothering Korda a little with his balltoss, so the court they put them on could have some influence. I’d give a small edge to Pablo in experience and in stamina. PCB in 5.
Alcaraz vs Berretini :
Oh good, an easy one. This line opened at -192 for Alcaraz, which is pretty ridiculous considering Berretini makes the quarters or semis of almost every single major for several seasons now. The problem is that Alcaraz’s expected ceiling is so high, people want to cash in before he’s there. Every win he posts makes you think “this is the major he wins” and Berretini’s backhand woes have been more visible than usual in the first few rounds. It’s one thing for Federer or Djokovic or Nadal to expose his backhand, but Kozlov and Nakashima did it. It spells trouble in rallies for Berretini, especially since Alcaraz has made huge improvements to his backhand and has such a dedication to footwork. Berretini is a big match player, with way more experience at this level. It still feels like Alcaraz has shown a slightly higher level coming in here though, and De Minaur besting Berretini in the ATP Cup with wide serves to Berretini’s backhand and inside out forehands is bad because that is exactly Alcaraz’s best serve and most frequent shot. I guess in hindsight, the line makes sense, but this feels like a match where any result would make sense. If Berretini wins in 3 and Alcaraz throws in errors, we all say “well he’s young” and if Alcaraz wins we say “yes of course, Berretini’s backhand was poor this week”. I’ll side with youth here, and I expect the crowd to be on Carlos’ side as well which will be a big boost for him. Alcaraz in 4-5.
Zverev vs Albot :
Zverev, or Prince Marmalade III as he gives his name at Starbucks every morning before laughing at his own joke every single morning, had a pretty simple time with John “Millman” Millman. Albot somehow turned in his own simple time with Vukic. After serving lights out against Harris, Vukic had trouble landing a first against Albot, and most of the points in this one were won during the rallies. Albot has been crisp throughout this event so far, and the struggles that saw him crash off the tour seem to be gone. He’s a talented and classy player, so his return is very welcome. He’ll have the support of the crowd and reddit against Zverev, and he’ll need it since Zverev is on the shortlist of favorites to win this tournament. It’ll be tough to break his serve, and Albot will be a bit outmatched in every department. Albot will be smart enough to capitalize on lapses, but he’ll need them late in a set because Zverev has developed a very solid ability to break back. Zverev in 4.
Opelka vs Shapovalov :
Opelka had a tricky match against Koepfer, who seemed to have a good read on where he was serving and put a number of balls in play. As the match wore on though, Opelka held easier and easier. It’s Isner #2 in terms of results but it’s somehow way more fun to watch. He has a decent attitude on court, a real funky but effective forehand, and his hair makes him look like a cross between an extra from The Revenant and Treebeard from LOTR. This is priced as a pickem (even odds) and that is bad biscuits for Shapovalov. To me, Shapo should have as easy of a time holding serve here as Opelka. Thus far in the tournament though, he’s been very inconsistent and very nearly lost to Kwon last round. He struggled against Djere in round one as well. His saving grace here will be that he tends to play to the level of his competition. Opelka will certainly win every set he gets a lead in, so the Canadian needs to be careful and avoid double faults, and even typing that I can see why this is estimated to be an even match. I like the chances of Shapo advancing here, but I don’t see him making a comeback so it’ll need to be his best tennis from 0-0. Shapovalov in 4.
Mannarino vs Karatsev :
The last time Mannarino was playing well, it was the USO, and he had just played two perfect sets of tennis and unravelled Tsitsipas to take the third set. He was then forced to withdraw/stop competing with a knee issue. It’s been a while since then, but he seems to have found that magic again. Against Hurkacz, he managed to keep the ball extremely low, and constantly worked sharp angles. He has a way of giving you no height, no pace, and a lot of different looks to deal with. Hurkacz struggled to find first serves, and made a number of forehand errors. Getting low is really not what a tall dude wants to do, and Mannarino’s serve out wide is somewhere between Nadal’s and Gilles Muller’s which is as high a compliment as I can give. Hurkacz was frustrated, and Mannarino earned the win.
The McDonald line suggested fatigue for Karatsev, and things looked bad early. McDonald was dictating play, and Karatsev couldn’t move. He called a medical time out at just 3-0, and it looked like he might end up forfeiting. The cameraguy treated us to some uncomfortably squishy footage of the trainer jiggling Karatsev’s thigh, and that was the last time McDonald looked like he was competitive. He won the first, but it was all Karatsev on offense from there on out. He outhit McDonald, and Mackie regressed to his old defensive style pretty quickly. Karatsev starts here at something crazy like -450, but Mannarino will have a much tougher time unravelling Karatsev with the same approach. Will we get the outrageous title run that we all want from Karatsev? Maybe? The ATP has a ton of player near their peak right now, but no reason for any of them to think they can’t win. Karatsev being a better mover than Hurkacz will help a lot, and his forehand gets a lot more shape on it low to high so he’ll deal with the flat backhand offerings well. He has supreme concentration and technique on his backhand, so he can at least hang even when Mannarino starts hitting his forehand cross. I think Mannarino’s level is such that Karatsev can’t get this done in straight sets, but Mannarino does seem to struggle with power hitters, and it looks like Karatsev’s physical woes are very minor. Karatsev in 4.
Khachanov vs Nadal :
Nadal beat Hanfmann by very simple scores, but if you watched the match there were a lot of very close service games for Nadal. A guy like Hanfmann shouldn’t really be breaking, and his baseline game is better than most big dudes, but he doesn’t go for a lot of big angles, so Nadal’s minor struggle to work the points to his favor confuses me a little. This is Nadal, so every time I doubt him he shuts me up, but I didn’t love the level he brought. What I do know is that these guys are able to play harder in big matches. Nadal will know Khachanov is a difficult test, and he’ll respond accordingly. Khachanov hits huge which will help, he defends well which will help, and his backhand is very solid which is a key, but he hasn’t won these kinds of matches in the majors. Beating Bonzi in straight sets is a bit better than the 4 he played with Kudla, so it can be expected that Khachanov plays his best tennis here. For Nadal, it’ll be key to land first serves and to get early leads. Khachanov is prone to frustration, and his plan B is always to hit the ball harder, which can lead to errors and also keep him from creating angles. It’s so hard to type out that a guy is going to beat Nadal in any sets at all, let alone a match, but I have not loved the level Nadal has brought thus far. He still is making a few errors that aren’t like him, and while that still leaves him as an overwhelmingly dominant player, it’s a version of him that inspires effort. Seeing your best chance to beat a guy you can’t beat brings out your best tennis. Khachanov started the year playing great, and is physically capable of going the distance here. Nadal may win, but it’ll be a close contest. Nadal in 4-5.
Andujar vs De Minaur :
In order to be more educated about Pablo Andujar, I spent the day researching jungle facts. Most of the following is plagiarized.
-Rainforests are essential to life on Earth. Not only do they provide air, water, medicine, food, and shelter to a multitude of living beings, they also provide Pablo Andujar.
-Not only do rainforests regulate global temperatures, they also cool and regulate local micro-climates. You know who else is cool and regulates? Pablo Andujar.
-Tropical forest have become a net carbon emitter. Is this good? I think it’s bad. Guess who doesn’t emit carbon though? Pablo Andujar; regularly not emitting carbon since 2002.
-Tropical rainforests cover less than 3% of Earth’s area, yet they are home to more than half our planet’s terrestrial animal species. Ok, that’s actually kinda cool.
-Rainforests play an essential role in maintaining the Earth’s limited supply of fresh water. So does Pablo Andujar. By beating his opponents 6-1 all the time, he prevents them from drinking too much water. Ushering mere mortals off the court quickly is humane, and ecological.
Enough jokes though, let’s get down to serious stuff. A tree frog was once having trouble. “I am having trouble,” said the tree frog, whilst sitting in a tree. Since he was in the jungle, he knew the spirit of Andujar was there, yet there was no reply. “I have always wanted to play professional tennis, but I am just a tree frog,” said the tree frog, tree froggishly. Just then a jaguar ate it. “Frogs are delicious,” thought the jaguar. And so they were. The jaguar trots a few more steps, before a funny feeling comes over him. “Wait. Am I a jaguar?” he thinks. The world begins to fade. Alex De Minaur awakens in a cold sweat. “What a weird dream,” he thinks. “Yes, a very strange dream,” says Pablo Andujar, while standing over his bed. “Come now, Alejandro, we will play some tennis,” he says, and together they go.
Pablo got a huge boost from Molcan being tired, but he played consistent throughout. There’s something very refreshing about his gamestyle, and his hardcourt results are going to really elevate his ranking when he undoubtedly wins the two claycourt titles he picks up every year. The next stop may be the end of the road for Pablo, as De Minaur looks to back in his best form. Majchrzak and Andujar would be about even, so De Minaur should take care of this in 3-4 at most.
Daniel vs Sinner :
There’s a lot to unpack from the Murray match, but the main theme was just Murray getting outworked. Playing a five-setter left Murray looking fatigued, and with his conservative game style doesn’t allow him to shorten points. Taro Daniel is a gentle moss, that grows on the rock that is Andy Murray. Murray looks down at the moss and thinks “this is fine” but it is already too late. Daniel has been on a tear since the start of this season, and Murray is not really able to move well enough to beat someone moving the ball without errors. Taro made Murray look bad on a number of rallies, always ready to put the ball in the next position and always able to come up with one extra shot when Murray thought things were over. Andy looked soggy, and Daniel never blinked. Taro’s life story was the inspiration for Ash Ketchum, yet people still choose to battle him. He now has Novak Djokovic and Murray under his belt, and Nadal was spotted soon after the match nervously checking the draw and mumbling “is khachanov, no?” Murray’s hip injury means he just can’t grind it out anymore, but if he stops complaining he can play on tour for another 2-3 years no problem because his tennis is still good and his defensive abilities give him a chance against more offensive minded players. Against Daniel, he needed to go bigger and sooner. Daniel isn’t going to miss, because he’s not really going for anything crazy. He works hard, and he wears his opponents down in a style very similar to Ramos Vinolas but with entirely different shot patterns. When the moment came for him to choke, he executed. It was a great win.
No reward for Daniel as his next challenge is a very fresh Jannik Sinner. Where Murray had an impossible time escaping rallies, Sinner’s power will give him an advantage right away. Daniel’s losses are traditionally to guys who outhit him, because his offense doesn’t really produce clean winners. Sinner’s serving is much better than Murray’s at this point, and his movement is that of a giraffe on redbull. Don’t expect Taro to just fold up, but do expect him to be a game worse than Sinner for the duration of the match. Sinner in 3.
Bautista Agut vs Fritz :
RBA was clinical in beating Kohlschreiber. He broke often and wasn’t broken himself. 1, 0, 3 against Kohlschreiber is pretty impressive, but RBA has been really sharp this season and it’s almost expected. Next is a match I think will be closer than usual, but one Roberto should like his chances in. Fritz bested his compatriot Tiafoe in straight sets, and he’s been very consistent this week. There were spots against Marterer where the old Fritz would have folded, and his backhand was much better than I’ve ever seen it. His serving is reliable at this point, and given the similarities to his game to FAA, he has a puncher’s chance against RBA. The key in this one will be momentum. If Fritz loses the first set, it’ll be a very uphill affair. If he’s able to get off to a quick start, RBA will have a tough time holding easily since Fritz is the player likely to have quicker service games. A season ago RBA would have won this in 3, simply by breaking down Fritz’s backhand. Now it’ll be a dogfight, but one where I think Fritz’s slight inexperience will factor. RBA has played every great player on tour numerous times. There’s nothing that you’re going to show him that will be a surprise, and he’s not going to give up errors or play foolish. Fritz is playing his best tennis, and between him and RBA, he’s the one likely to blink first (this is unfair actually because RBA probably has not physically blinked his eyes since arriving in Australia, and several things have caught fire already this week because he stared at them too long). RBA in 4-5.
Paire vs Tsitsipas :
Allez Bunwah! Allez Bunwah! The cheering section this week has been the difference, and their chants after every point have lent Paire a stability and a supportive distraction between points that really seems to have him playing his best tennis. He neither bends his knees nor leaves the ground to serve, but somehow he can easily thump aces. Dimitrov had some sharp moments, but Paire was the more aggressive player throughout, and again he was able to dig out of break point situations, conceding just 2/7 to Dimitrov while converting 4/12 for himself. Paire got a little emotional after the win, and despite him throwing some world-famous tantrums it’s nice to see him trying. Him and Kyrgios sit in the same boat where we hate their attitudes but love when they play good tennis.
Speaking of bad attitudes, second hand philosopher Tsitsipas proved that his physical fitness is back to normal, outlasting a very game Sebastian Baez. Baez, who Mo Layani insisted on called Base throughout the match, had real chances in this. Tsitsipas shanked a number of backhands, and made some really transparent approaches to net that cost him the second set. He settled into just floating the ball in at a few junctures, and this is not going to work against a clay-courter. Clay has nonstop bad bounces, and you have to hit offensive shots without missing. This means the path past them has to include taking their time away, or suddenly the guy who was +2000 to beat you is magically hitting a winner when you ease off. It isn’t magic though, and Tsitsipas was lucky to be much stronger than Baez already or he would have lost. The Paire matchup is scary for anyone right now, but Tsitsipas has proven in the past that he beats the guys he’s supposed to beat. His physical durability and ability to defend to his forehand wing are excellent, and while his backhand usually is a bit defensive for my tastes, it’ll serve to frustrate Paire if he just keeps him locked in rallies. Tsitsipas’ footspeed negates some of Paire’s good netplay as well, and overall I think this match is unwinnable for Paire. His saving grace is that Tsitsipas’ returning is not where it should be on fast hardcourts yet, and Paire’s serve is in the top 30 in the game for sure. A few sets could be tight, and Paire could win one, but Tsitsipas should outlast him and his weight of shot to the forehand could see Paire making a lot of errors for the first time this tournament. Tsitsipas in 4.
Rublev vs Cilic :
Rublev starts at -300 for this one, which seems a bit high to me given his struggles at the end of last season. He was dominant against Berankis, but Cilic is a whole step up in terms of offensive ability. My heart sank though when I looked up the H2H. Cilic has never beaten Rublev, going a full 0-5 against the young gentleman, who as we all know inherited his superpowers when he was bitten by Beaker from the Muppets as a baby. This is Cilic’s best chance to win. It’ll be Rublev’s first big test, and Cilic has three weeks of stellar play already. A late surge by Gombos was inspiring, but it really is hard to put anyone away in straight sets so the 3rd set felt like more of an impatient Cilic than a lapse in level. One problem I see staring at me is that Rublev hits a heavy ball, and Cilic is used to being the bigger hitter in most matches. It’ll take his time away, and for a guy with confidence issues, a big H2H like this can loom large if things go poorly early. I doubt Rublev can get this done quickly, and I’d be very hesitant to back him based on beating Berankis and Mager, but it seems like he’ll get the job done. Rublev in 5.
Evans vs Auger-Alliassime :
Evans got a nice gift as Rinderknech withdrew. He seemed fine at the end of the Popyrin match so it’s a bit strange, but hopefully he has a quick recovery. The rest will be nice, as he starts off fresh against Felix Auger-Alliassume, who is very lucky to have squeaked by Davidovich Fokina. From 0-0 to the end, these two played incredibly high level tennis. Fokina’s shotmaking is excellent, and he comes up with the right shots in big moments. Fokina probably feels like he should have gotten this one, as he was 2/9 on break points and won about 17 more points than FAA. What went wrong was simply FAA playing better tiebreaks. Fokina had a lot of tough early scores in his service games, but was able to right the ship. In the tiebreakers though, the early minibreaks cost him. Overall it was the best match of the day, and 4 tiebreakers between players not really known as servebots indicates an incredibly close contest. ADF seems healthy again, and the effort he put in would have beaten a lot of other people still left in the draw. He’ll be a problem at Roland Garros.
Evans will be fresh, has won a bunch of matches this year, and beat FAA in their previous meeting. Yet somehow, I feel like this is still a hard spot for him. FAA’s serving has improved, and he’s been able to hit through RBA twice in recent history. His backhand has made big improvements, and against ADF what I noticed the most was his ability to come with the right shot in the big moments. He hit only a few backhands down the line but he hit them for clean winners in tiebreakers. He didn’t serve a lot of unreturned but he served aces to save break points on a few occasions. He’s good, and his physical strength is legit. This feels like a spot where Evans needs to take care of his serve very well. FAA still makes some errors, but not as frequently as he used to, and once he gets his forehand on the ball it’s tough to wrestle back control. Evans having skipped an entire round is a big factor, so this is an even contest. I lean towards the guy who’s going to keep improving though. FAA in 5.
O’Connell vs Cressy :
O’Connell pulled the upset of the day, taking Diego down in straight sets with some inspired play. He was excellent on defense, he swung with full commitment on every pass attempt, and he outserved Diego from start to finish. It’s a huge win. Cressy is not a fun opponent right now, but given some of the other names in the draw would afford O’Connell 0 chance to win, it is the best place he could be in. Cressy had a pretty simple time with Machac, who had some momentum but lacked the serving consistency that he needed. Cressy swings for the fences on returns, because he can afford to. It saves him energy, it creates doubt (this is written in his notebook), and it makes life very difficult for his opponents on second serves. He’ll start as the favorite here, and he hasn’t shown signs of his arm falling off during this run. O’Connell would do well do engage in rallies if he can early in the match, to try to wear down Cressy’s legs but it’s unlikely that Cressy will fall for this. These courts are fast, and Cressy is holding serve at a good clip. He only landed 54% of his first serves against Machac though, which means O’Connell will get some looks at Cressy sprinting to net behind second serves. It’ll be impossible to blank Chris in front of his home crowd and with him playing the level of accurate ball that he is, but it’s Cressy’s to lose. Cressy in 4.
Medvedev vs Van De Zandschulp :
Gasquet won the first set and looked like a tricky spot for Botic before an injury led to a retirement after he failed to win a game for a set and a half. Van De Zandschulp is so good that I honestly thought the 0, 0 was just a normal result. I really expect great play from him, and he delivers. Up next is a rematch from last year’s US Open, which came after Botic played 27 sets of tennis. Botic entered as a huge underdog, and won a set to the great surprise of most. This year, he’s fresh, but enters as an even larger underdog (somethiing goofy like +1100). The reason why is that Daniil Medvedev is automatic. I realized halfway through watching the Kyrgios match that I was not watching Medvedev at all. It’s become so automatic for him to put the ball in play that I just watch his opponent get tested and see what they can come up with. Medvedev’s returning is insane. He stands too deep to be effective, yet passes people. He stands too deep to hit with any depth, yet he put the ball into rough spots for Kyrgios to generate offense over and over. Kyrgios played the match of a lifetime, despite a losing effort. He tried hard, he was vocal and understanding from early on with the umpire, and he smashed minimal racquets. It was what Australia deserved, and tennis fans everywhere felt a little better after seeing him play so well.
The story with Kyrgios is his ranking drop. He’ll be off tour soon and we all know he’ll get a wildcard whenever he wants one. With his less than stellar commitment, that would become hard to accept. After seeing this performance though, give him a whole lifetime of wildcards. The guy is tremendous, and despite physical fitness being an issue often discussed, he fought hard throughout. In the fourth set he did look ready to fold up, but that was more about the pressure Medvedev had brought (Kyrgios did drink some Pepsi though which is never a good sign for tennis players). He had his usual “I lost a point and this is because of the crowd which was fine a moment ago” blowups, and he gave the ref an unsolicited speech about how the match was about him and Medvedev, and that he shouldn’t mess that up. Overall Carlos Bernades did a great job. He managed his own emotions, he was quick and understanding with Kyrgios, and kept him focused on tennis without letting him walk all over him. He cautioned the crowd well without challenging their authority to squawk and make other fun noises, and he handed out warnings when he needed to. For me, it’s the best I’ve seen Kyrgios play, but his forehand has some minor issues still. The ball doesn’t get through the court. It’s a very spinny shot, and it gives his opponents time to get there. The spin isn’t going to make anyone miss, and he hits beautiful shots but the actual angles/positions they create don’t help him get forward.
Medvedev and Botic should play a similar match, but it should be noted that Medvedev shut down Kyrgios’ offense while Kyrgios played his best tennis. Medvedev may be able to return more of Botic’s serves, and this could wind up being a lopsided affair. Prediction : Kyrgios is as good as anyone will play Medvedev until the finals. Medvedev in 3.