Jan 18, 2023

2023 Australian Open ATP & WTA Round Two Day 2

ATP Singles
Rublev vs Ruusuvuori :

Max Purcell put up a good fight, but in the end Ruusuvuori was a bit too solid. I expected Thiem to be competitive against Rublev, but he doesn’t look like he had big ambitions here at this event. He looked a bit like someone warming up for a match. No real sense of urgency, and tentative swings that seemed like he has plans for later this season and him and his team know he’s just not ready yet. Ruusuvuori should be a tough problemo (en ingles se dice “problem”) for Rublev, but Andrey really look good in round one. The slower balls are sitting up nicely for him, and he doesn’t seem to have much trouble in hitting through the court. There are times that Ruusuvuori can be near perfect at tennis, but Purcell was right there with him and I think Rublev is likely to win a few more rounds here. Rublev in 3-4.

Chardy vs Evans :

Great return to the tour for Jeremy Chardy. Galan seemed like the player unprepared for matchplay here, and Chardy’s serve is still pretty darn effective. He’ll most likely be heading home this round, but if he’s looking to get back on tour, winning his first 3/5 set match back is a huge confidence boost. He’s pretty solid on all surfaces so good things are in store if he stays healthy. Evans blinked in the second and first set against Bagnis, going down an early break in both. He was able to turn things around in the first, and closed out in 4 after losing the second. Dan is playing at a decent level, and he tends to lose the matches where he’s significantly outgunned. It still will take a lot of running to get past him even then, so while I expect Chardy to hang in there, I do think Evans’ legs will be the deciding factor. He’s fast and he looks to push the pace; his backhand is mostly a slice but he hits it faster and flatter than most players on tour. Chardy’s fitness level is a pretty big unknown after such a long layoff, but Evans would be slate to win this even if he was active on tour. Evans in 4.

Kudla vs Humbert :

Hehe. What is this 2019? Kudla got a great lucky loser win against Safiullin. He’s shaved his head and looks pretty shiny out there, definite henchman vibes so it’s not surprising he stole the win. Humbert got the benefit of Gasquet’s title win last week leaving him running on fumes. Gasquet had a tough time returning serve today and seemed content to get out of there. It’s a much needed win for Kudla and Humbert and it’s difficult to point to a clear winner here. Humbert has a higher ceiling but he’s been relatively useless for the past two seasons. Kudla was a tremendous journeyman but his best days are a little bit behind him. Crocodile vs Alligator. Godzilla vs King Kong. Humbert vs Kudla. These legendary clashes are unknowns. Probably Kudla has displayed a better level, and he’ll be more willing to dig in than Gasquet was. Kudla in 4-5.

Rune vs Cressy :

Holger Rune’s cheering section is growing on me. The “RUUUUUUUUUUUUne” murmurs are pretty funny, and he played solid against Krajinovic. This is a dangerous match for him since Cressy is a huge server, but the scorelines against ARV aren’t inspiring. Cressy has a notebook that just says “create doubt” inside it, but it’ll be hard to do that against Rune. To understand why, a deep vivid dive into his childhood is necessary. Picture a 1920s Danish farm/school/mayor’s house. Young Holger is in 3rd period, which is studying the pronunciation of types of cheese. Just then a voice booms out “HOLGER VEEEETUS ROOOOONEY COME AND EAT UR WAFFFFLES”. It’s the waffle lady, come to collect on her debts. Every Danish child must eat 4 waffles per day. It is law. Anyway, the edibles have kicked in. Rune in 4.

Carreño-Busta vs Bonzi :

Heat delays made a solved problem new for PCB in round one. He won a tiebreaker against Cachin, but rolled in the second set. The match seemed over, but the extended delay basically gave Cachin a chance to reset, and he got to a tiebreaker again in the 3rd. Watching how the delays play out is pretty interesting; here Cachin was doing fine but the sheer number of balls you have to play against PCB wore him down. There have been a handful of “unable to go 5” losses already here in Australia. Bonzi had a tough match against qualifer Bellucci (tremendous lefty talent) but he was a little bit more effective on defense there.

There isn’t a simple path to the finish line for either of these players. Pablo is the better player in terms of ceiling, but he plays that Spanish federation style of really working multiple shots to win points. Bonzi is the more offensive minded of the two and has an absurdly good backhand, but PCB’s defending and focus are unparalleled. I’m expecting Bonzi to execute where Cachin struggled, but Pablo should be a bit better suited to going deep and I don’t see a way for this to end quickly. PCB in 5.

Mannarino vs De Minaur :

This should be a fun one. Mannarino really never beats Isner so injury concerns aside this was a great win for him. He’ll be excited to see a second round here also because he’s serving and playing fairly sharp. De Minaur was dominant against Hsu and he leads the h2h on hardcourts against Mannarino 2-0. Playing at home and with slower balls means it’s really tough to hit through De Minaur, and he’s been pretty exceptional about beating the players he’s “supposed” to beat. Blanking Mannarino is nearly impossible, so De Minaur in 4-5.

Dimitrov vs Djere :

Good ol consistent Grigor. Somehow, anytime Dimitrov has a good match, I start to believe. He played solid against Karatsev and was pretty aggressive in his returning, and his reward is a very similar caliber of opponent in round 2. Laslo Djere dropped a set against Bergs and was down a break in the third, but he really has started off the year playing some solid hardcourt tennis. Do I know what is going to happen here? No. It is a very informative spot though. Karatsev is looking to create offense and the errors can flow if he’s pressured. Djere is all about big consistent hitting though, and it will show us where Dimitrov is really at. He’s classic for having physical issues in long match, for having lapses in focus, and for losing confidence in his timing. Djere shouldn’t beat him here, but he will certainly hang around long enough to show us whether Dimitrov is a contender for a deep run or if he was just rewarded by Karatsev’s less than stellar form. I’m leaning towards the former, but Dimitrov is like a classy version of Benoit Paire in terms of reliability. Dimitrov in 4-5.

Djokovic vs Couacaud :

Enzo did well to get past Dellien. Djokovic has a possible leg injury, but he seemed okay against RCB. This is more smooth sailing. Really enjoying the Novak press conferences so far this week, he’s honest and insightful which is refreshing compared to the robotic “I play my tennis” responses so many pros give. Djokovic in 3.

Fritz vs Popyrin :

Basilashvili made Fritz backers pretty nervous last night. His power and free-swinging really created some pressure moments, and the TC announcers started to get nervous as Fritz went into defensive-mode. Despite this being somewhat true, Fritz’s defense has improved a good bit in the past season, and eventually Basil’s percentages defeated him. Up next is a pretty entertaining serving battle against local talent Popyrin. Popyrin had a less than dominant performance against C.H. Tseng, but he got the win and considering his struggles in the past, putting Ws up is a great sign for him. Coming off a win against FAA, Popyrin won’t be nervous here. I do think he tends to play better as an underdog, and the hype surrounding Fritz right now is likely to give Taylor some reasons to mope if things get tense here. Overall though, Fritz is reaching that top tier of tennis right now. His serve is a huge weapon and the motion is smooth and repeatable. His forehand is heavy, and his backhand has been such a target for so long that it seems to have gotten consistent. Popyrin will look to redline, and Fritz just needs to stay the course. Fritz in 4-5.

Shelton vs Jarry :

Huge upset for Jarry in round one, beating Miomir Kecmanovic fairly handily. He served great in qualifying, and his forehand was looking solid also. He takes huge swings and his length can suffer, so it’s pretty scary to see him playing consistent from the baseline. Shelton had his first huge battle at a major, besting Zhizhen Zhang in 5 close sets. It’s a great win for a few reasons. One, winning checks notes is good. Two, for a young player to win a deep physical battle is a great sign. Three, his backhand didn’t hold him back. Against Jarry it mostly matters who gets lucky. Shelton has huge power but his returning isn’t great yet. It’s a big ask for him to stop the Chilean in such good form, but he does have his own great service delivery to get him to the business end of sets. I’d expect a number of tiebreakers in this, and it’s a brand new matchup so it’s really tough to gauge who will have the edge. For me, Jarry is the more powerful offense, but the less likely player to win points while defending. Zhang isn’t nearly the player that Kecmanovic is though, so I worry that Jarry will just roll in similar fashion if Shelton isn’t able to get a read on where the serve is going. Jarry in 5.

Schwartzman vs Wolf :

Diego looked like he’d run away with the match against Krutykh after winning the first, but they ended up having a marathon match that Krutykh had good chances to win. Schwartzman hasn’t been playing too well, but he was his usual wall of a self in this one. The court conditions are fast enough that he can’t just run down everything, but it’s close if I’m being honest. Wolf doesn’t have Krutykh’s serve, and I am expecting a very close battle here. JJ beat Thompson in 4, but it was a match that could have gone Jordan’s way if he had just been ready to execute. Wolf vs Diego is power vs endurance. If Diego is able to win one of the first two sets, I think he’ll win the match. That sounds obvious, but Wolf should dominate the early affairs, and as things stretch on it gets harder and harder to hit past Diego. With the match on the racquet of an American player I always have doubts, but Diego struggles to hold serve and he hasn’t looked confident out there in a while, so I almost expect Wolf to win. Wolf in 4-5.

Zverev vs Mmoh :

Two pushers, how lovely. Zverev narrowly escaped losing to clay-courter Juan Pablo Varillas and it almost seemed unfair for Varillas to play as well as he did and still lose. Zverev should win this match fairly easily despite Mmoh’s solid improvement over the off-season. They’re just in two different tiers of tennis as far as ballstriking, and Zverev will have ample time here since Mmoh tends to play fairly conservative tennis. Zverev in 3-4.

Murray vs Kokkinakis :

I’ve been watching Murray lose to his physical limitations for a few seasons now, and it was nice to see him be the fitter player. Andy came in with a clear game-plan to isolate Matteo’s backhand, and it worked. It must feel good for Murray to finally see one go through the hoop, and perhaps he’ll leave behind the childish yelling at his box that he immediately resorts to whenever anything goes wrong. The only thing his diatribes brought is confidence to Berrettini, who was soundly defeated in this match and just kept going because the guy standing across the net kept acting like his demise was inevitable. For Berrettini, this should be a wakeup call. He missed a sitter backhand at the net at match point, but he really lost this match because of a lack of leg strength. He has a great right arm, but his stability isn’t there. This makes you miss backhands. I’ve highlighted in the past how his footwork is oriented first towards finding a forehand, and why the slice is a quicker transitional shot as a result, but when he has time, he still misses backhands. Leg strength grants you stability, and the backhand follows. Him and his team have work to do.

For now though, it’s about Murray. This win meant a lot to him, and he’ll be looking for more. There are several periods in the past few seasons where Kokkinakis would be slated to lose to Murray, but I expect him to get the job done here. Berrettini couldn’t really expose Murray movement last night since Andy had a safe haven to the backhand wing. Kokkinakis’ backhand isn’t the best, but he hits it solid enough. Thanasi’s serving is around the same as Berrettini’s, and it’s odd for me to say this but the injury-stricken Australian is looking more physically fit than Berrettini was in his match. Murray’s counterpunching is great so he will have a good shot here, but playing that 5 setter against Berrettini has to take his movement down a bit, and Kokkinakis’ offense will require fast reactions if Murray wants to avoid pressure on his own serve. The Murray equation is simple, keeping him moving laterally and the third run will grant you the open court. Kokkinakis in 4-5.

Holt vs Bautista-Agut :

Holt is back doing some great work at a major. A five set victory against Vukic is a good step for him considering how Cachin folded him up at the USO. It has been physical limitations for Holt in these spots in the past, so it’s nice to see him cross the ‘ol finish line. RBA is unfortunately en fuego, and the flat but accurate hitting of Holt will feed right into him. RBA is, at this stage, a much better version of what Holt represents. Should be entertaining, but one-sided. RBA in 3.

Davidovich Fokina vs Paul :

I think it was only the third set when DC writer Gillioni said “Name a more iconic duo than ADF and 5 set wins”. It was very true, and ADF and Bublik traded sets until the umpire told them it was over. It’s the second good win of his hardcourt season, as he opened up with an upset win against Nakashima to start the season. I’m not sure if ADF is consistent enough to beat Tommy Paul. Paul gave Struff the business in their match, and while it was a straight set loss it was mostly just that Paul was a little bit better. Struff seems to have a ceiling on hardcourt and the guys who can trade power with him tend to earn unforced errors. Fokina on paper has a shot to beat Tommy Paul, but it’s the type of win that has been somewhat infrequent for him. I sound like a broken record, but there’s nothing missing for this guy except consistency. The majors almost help his game because dropping a set is not as big of a disaster. This is a shootout where I think ADF has more ways to score, but his percentages are going to keep Tommy in the mix no matter what. Fokina is the type of player that it’s pretty dangerous to fade when he’s playing well, but Paul is a big step up from Bublik. Paul in 4.

Brooksby vs Ruud :

Brooksby lost the first set to O’Connell but he cruised from there. His defense is pretty remarkable; he’s just tall enough to have a good serve but just short enough to have good mobility. Jenson also has a knack for having his opponents play at his pace. He’ll be the perfect test for Casper Ruud, whose hardcourt performances at the majors have been excellent considering he’s supposed to be a claycourt specialist. Some early 250 losses may have rang alarm bells but I’m not buying it. Brooksby is going to ace Ruud? I don’t think so. He’s going to frustrate him into errors? Doesn’t really sound like Ruud. He’s going to defend too well? Again, since Ruud’s forehand is so heavy and big on spin, I don’t think he’s going to force the issue enough to really give away this match. I also think that Ruud is a bit more physically strong than Brooksby. Given those early losses, this will require a step up in level from Ruud, but he was solid against Machac. To put this in perspective, I do think Brooksby can easily play even in this contest, but it would be his best win on tour so far, so I just have to side with Ruud here. The lines here and in the ADF Paul match are eerily low, so I’m a bit wary, but if I’m picking a winner, it’s Ruud in 4. I just haven’t seen these second tier guys produce at the majors the way Ruud has.

WTA Singles
Gracheva vs Stefanini :

What just happened. I’m not ashamed to admit I had Kasatkina winning that match in straight sets. Gracheva won so quick I didn’t even have a chance to tune in. I’ll be the first to tell you Gracheva can play great tennis, but I am pretty unsuccessful at guessing when that will occur. She likely wins this match as well, but Stefanini has just done something very few young players do. It’s odd to notice, but Stefanini is smiling the entire time she plays. Trevisan does the same. Is this an Italian WTA thing? It’s working. Or it’s confusing. Either one. Hitting through Maria is a really tough thing to do, and the rallies weren’t short at all. Stefanini also broke back in the third which is a great sign for her career. It’ll be a good test here to see how she fares against Gracheva, who’s a bit more offensive but a similar level to Maria. Expecting the Varvara tour to continue, because even fatigued Kasatkina is pretty tough to beat. Gracheva in 3.

Putintseva vs Pliskova :

Fun fact : Pliskova has won the last bajillion matches against Putintseva (or 5 if you’re into numbers). It’s very surprising to me since Pliskova tends to struggle with errors at times and Putintseva is almost always looking to outlast her opponents. Bit strange to me actually that Pliskova having won all 5 meetings and playing in good form is only -227, but it’s hard to pick against her in light of that. Pliskova has a great serve, and these courts are playing pretty fast so her flat forehand is very effective. Feels lazy to just predict a Pliskova win, but Pliskova in 2.

Zhang Tig vs Martic :
Volynets vs Kudermetova :

Volynets is turning into one of the best players from Australia. Birrell is also stepping up and it’s great to see a new generation emerge after Barty’s retirement. End of the road I think here. Kudermetova struggled in the second set as Zanevska’s inside out forehand really started to find the mark, but she still won the set. Her depth is a real problem for opponents, and she’s in a decent serving rhythm also. Volynets is on a 4 match win streak, and playing at home is likely to give her a boost, but Kudermetova is looking like it’ll take a big name to end her streak. Kudermetova in 2-3.

Kontaveit vs Linette :

Pretty standard win for Kontaveit in round one. Linette had a tough first set with Sherif where she was down a break, but she finished strong, winning a tiebreaker and then dishing out a donut in the second set. Kontaveit has struggled a little bit recently and the struggles have been visible in her reaction to difficult patches on court. Linette’s offense is steady and she’s pretty good at covering the court so Kontaveit will have a tough time here, but she should still win. Kontaveit in 3.

Townsend vs Alexandrova :

Diane Parry isn’t the best hardcourt player, but wow was Taylor Townsend on fire in round one. Her forehand is always a solid weapon, but she hit some unreal backhands down the line. It’s a good time to be round into form as her second round opponent is doing the same. Alexandrova usually has two quiet weeks each year where she is unplayable. Her groundstrokes can be huge and she serves well also, which seems a bit surprising since she’s not the largest human being out there. Last week her backhand especially was pretty much unplayable, and she’s carried that over here. I don’t think either offense will see much resistance here, but Alexandrova’s backhand catching fire is a really good benefit to have against a lefty. Townsend’s defense is probably not good enough to stop Alexandrova. Alexandrova in 2.

Begu vs Siegemund :

Begu has pulled off her favorite, going down a set and a break and then winning. It just seems that her game stays steady and once the edge is off her opponent, she’s able to roll. It was a good tournament for Mandlik, who will probably feel this was a missed opportunity. Still, she’s show some great tennis and the first set and a half were great. Siegemund is through after a marathon against up and coming baseliner Lucia Bronzetti. It’s a favorable matchup here for Siegemund as she’s won their last couple encounters. Siegemund in good form, and Begu having barely beaten a qualifier will be a good spot for the German to get to a rare third round at a major. Her ability to change direction with both wings is a big key in this matchup since Begu isn’t the fastest player laterally. Will Laura beat Begu at her own game? Find out on the next dragon ball WTA. Siegemund in 3.

Fernandez vs Garcia :

Leylah’s solid play against Cornet has her moving up the French ladder, and this is a good test for both players. Garcia rolled Sebov in round one which is a good indication that her solid level at the end of last year is likely to continue. She’ll have a pretty big edge in hitting here, but the balls have been fluffing up a bit and that’s in the favor of Fernandez. Surprisingly this is their first meeting. I expect Fernandez to continue her solid play and her ability to reflect power on the backhand side will be essential against Garcia. Caroline serving well is really hard to stop though, and I think in an early round she’s slight favored here. Garcia in 3.

Sabalenka vs Rogers :

Sabalenka really looks scary when she plays well. Round one was a complete dismissal of Martincova, and since Tereza is a pretty similar tactician to Rogers this is a good spot for Sabalenka. These two played three sets in their previous meeting with Aryna coming out on top, but I’m expecting Sabalenka to win this in straights. She’s gotten rid of her double fault deceleration woes and she’s crushing the ball. Sabalenka in 2.

Davis vs Mertens :

This has potential to be a 3 hour match. Lauren Davis is really moving the ball well. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite thing to compare tours, but she’s the Diego Schwartzman of the WTA this week. She’s just really difficult to hit through, and when you finally accept even terms she comes up with a short angle and follows it with a winner. Her and Kovinic played a really good match, and her and Mertens should be excellent also. Elise defeated Muguruza in a really entertaining clash that I didn’t watch. Mertens has a bit more power than Davis but it’ll be really hard for either player to score; hard to really say who triumphs here. Mertens in 3.

Schmiedlova vs Giorgi :

Schmiedlova made quick work of Trevisan in round one and Giorgi absolutely dismissed the legendary Pavlyuchenkova. This is a pretty fun matchup of power and consistency against sporadic but unplayable offense. Apparently Giorgi has trouble getting practice partners because of how fast she hits the ball (at least this is how her camp has presented it). I like Giorgi here but she’ll need to be breaking early in sets to keep her confidence high. If the scoreline stays close until 5-5 I do think Schmiedlova’s power will see her through. Giorgi in 2 close sets.

Liu vs Bencic :

Bencic is making this a simple equation. Pick Bencic against whoever she plays, because she’s about to make a deep run at a major. Liu is making her presence on tour more regular, but she’s outmatched here. Bencic in 2.

Haddad Maia Parrizas-Diaz vs Potapova :
Vekic vs Samsonova :

Great win for Vekic in round one. Selekhmeteva had her on the ropes and she was able to close out. It was a bit awkward suspending play at 5-1 in the final set tiebreaker, but I guess rules are rules. Samsonova beat Paolini who’s struggling a bit to get started this year. Neither player will complain but this is a tough second round. Vekic finding form again and trying to get back active on tour, and Samsonova pretty much looking like a threat to win any tournament she enters. Easy to side with recent form here and take Samsonova, and I regret that it’s a bit boring to read that but there’s not much else to do. Samsonova in 2-3 close sets.

Birrell vs Fruhvirtova :

Birrell is the hero for the day in Australia. She played tremendous against Kanepi and the come from behind victory was beautiful to watch. Her emotion and disbelief when she scored matchpoint showed what this meant to her. Birrell’s game is good enough to hang in this next round, and her power was on display against Kanepi. Where I think she falls short is on defense. Fruhvirtova has a sharper array of shots than Kanepi and since she doesn’t really have the scar tissue of big losses on tour yet, she goes for pretty small targets. If Birrell gives her the same lead Kanepi had, she likely won’t come back. This has the potential to be close, but I think it’s Fruhvirtova in 2.

Vondrousova vs Jabeur :

Vondrousova almost fumbled the proverbial bag in round one, as Riske was up a break in the final set and playing good tennis. Marketa will have a tougher matchup here, as Jabeur has won their last three meetings. For a retriever, playing someone with enough power to actually force errors can be really tough, and that’s what Jabeur represents. The top seeds in this draw are not getting an easy time at all, and even if Jabeur wins here this will be stressful. Jabeur in 2-3.