Australian Open – Week One Recap
After an intense opening week with plenty of quality tennis on show, James McKenzie rounds up the best of the action from the Australian Open thus far.
The 2022 edition of the Australian Open has seen the tournament surrounded by controversy following the deportation of world number one Novak Djokovic. It would be hoped that there would be some top-quality tennis on show in Melbourne to shift focus away from the Serb’s antics, and this is exactly what happened, as the first slam of the year got off to a hot start in its opening week.
The main headline from the first day was the shocking first round exit of 17-year-old American Coco Gauff at the hand of Qiang Wang. Madison Keys continued her good form as she advanced to the second round, as did Naomi Osaka as she returned a win over Camila Osorio. Amanda Asinova got a narrow win on her collision course for a potential third round match against Osaka, whilst Ash Barty completely overwhelmed Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 and 6-0.
On the men’s side of things, the on-form players had a mixed start. Aslan Karatsev opened his tournament with a win, whilst hometown favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis lost on Court Three against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann. Hanfmann set up a big second round matchup against Rafael Nadal, who comfortably dispatched Marcos Giron. From one Spanish legend to the next great Spanish tennis star, Carlos Alcaraz built on his impressive US Open showing as he defeated Alejandro Tabilo in straight sets. Brit Cameron Norrie continued his poor form as he suffered his fourth straight defeat as he crashed out as the hands of Seb Korda, whilst ‘The Hammer’ Matteo Berrettini came from a set down to defeat Brandon Nakashima in a closely contested match.
Day Two was headlined by British superstar Emma Raducanu, as she made her first slam appearance since her historic US Open triumph, and she marked it with a victory over Sloane Stephens. Another teenage star was also in action, but would suffer a shock first round exit as Raducanu’s US Open final opponent, Leylah Fernandez, was knocked out by Aussie Madison Inglis in straight sets. Aryna Sabalenka was having serving yips but did eventually got the job done against Storm Sanders. Finally, Sam Stosur wasn’t ready for her singles career to end just yet as she secured an emotional victory over Robin Anderson.
Scotland’s Andy Murray was victorious at the John Cain Arena as he saw off Nikoloz Basilashvili in a five-set-thriller and the Nick Kyrgios show got off to a good start as he defeated Liam Broady, who showed his support for the Rainbow Laces campaign, which was warmly received. This set up a blockbuster second round match for Kyrgios against Daniil Medvedev, with the Rod Laver Arena selling out due to the scope of the match. Finally, Felix Auger-Aliassime battled his way to comeback and defeat Emil Russuvuori after 5 sets.
Day Three set up some interesting contests for the third round. Victoria Azarenka blew away Jil Teichmann and will go on to face Elina Svitolina, whilst Amanda Anisimova defeated Belinda Bencic to set up an all-American third round clash with Naomi Osaka.
Rafa Nadal continued to impress with another straight sets victory, this time over Yannick Hanfmann. His Spanish counterpart Carlos Alcaraz marched on with another straight sets victory of his own, setting up an exciting test against Matteo Berrettini. Another straight-set winner was Gael Monfils, this time over Alexander Bublik. In a favourable part of the draw, could this be the time “La Monf” finally secures that elusive grand slam title?
Day 4 was arguably the most newsworthy, with Nick Kyrgios vs Daniil Medvedev closing out the Rod Laver Arena in front of a hot, sold-out crowd. The crowd were unanimously behind Nick, but were very disrespectful towards the Russian, often jeering and shouting before his second serve. Kyrgios was his usual self, even taking the third set and at one point it even seemed like he and the crowd had gotten into Medvedev’s head, but the favourite closed himself off and saw the game out comfortably and was sure to let the crowd hear it in his post-game interview. A highlight of the interview was when he described the crowd as having a ‘low IQ’.
There were also multiple upsets, most notably Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu exiting the tournament. Murray looked sluggish against Taro Daniel as the Japanese qualifier completely outclassed the Scotsman, setting up a third-round match against Jannik Sinner.
Emma Raducanu was cruising against Danka Kovinic until an injury got the better of her. She complained about having serious blisters on her hand and had to play predominantly using a backhand and a forehand slice. The forehand slice was working well as Kovinic had not prepared for that at all, but she eventually adapted and set up a third-round match against Simona Halep. Emma can be proud of herself, however, as she showed resilience in the face of adversity.
Day Five was definitely the best day as far as match quality goes, with three matches stealing the show. On a piping hot day in Melbourne, Paula Badosa took on Marta Kostyuk in an epic battle at the Rod Laver Arena, with Badosa advancing through with the win.
Carlos Alcaraz and Matteo Berrettini clashed in a Game of the Tournament contender, where Berrettini raced into a two-set lead. The Alcaraz we knew from the US Open came back and The Hammer didn’t know how to handle him, and the betting favourite pre-match brought the game back to two sets each. Of course, the deciding set went to a tie break, and Alcaraz looked like he might take it. However, Berrettini went over on his ankle and had to get checked on, and this seemingly killed the momentum Alcaraz had built. Berrettini eventually found his way through, seeing off the exciting prospect and advancing through to the next round.
Despite the betting ‘underdog’ winning this match, the biggest upset was yet to come as Naomi Osaka took on Amanda Anisimova. Osaka was on fire in the first set, looking her absolute best, but Anisimova went on to level in the second, and the game went on to a tiebreak in the third, which Anisimova won, ending Osaka’s title defence and setting up a date against the unstoppable Ash Barty in the next round.
Marin Cilic was the star of Day Six as he rolled back the years to pull off the upset to knock out the number five seed, Andrey Rublev. The first two sets were very hard fought from the 2014 US Open winner, and Rublev again seemed to lack a plan B which always appears to be his demise. Cilic weathered the storm of Rublev to claim the 3-1 victory. It would be unreasonable to have Cilic in the mix to win the slam just yet, but his performance in the next round could be very telling.
Maxime Cressy was excellent in beating Chris O’Connell on Court Three, setting up a tough match against Daniil Medvedev in Round Four, and Cressy seemed greatly confident about his chances in his post-game interview. Aryna Sabalenka also put in a strong showing as she came from behind to dispatch of Marketa Vondrousova, but her serving yips still seemed to be causing her problems. The upset on the women’s side came from another strong showing from 19-year-old Clara Tauson, as she knocked out Danielle Collins having already bested number six seed Annet Kontaveit in the previous round in straight sets. Could we have another Emma Raducanu on our hands?
Denis Shapovalov was the main man on Day Seven, as he knocked out Alexander Zverev, a man who many had tipped to be a surefire finalist. Shapovalov beating Zverev was not a part of the plan and definitely messed up a lot of people’s predictions, as the Canadian won comfortably as well in straight sets. He will face Rafa Nadal who, after a never-ending tie-break in the first set, eventually got the better of Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.
Nadal has impressed so far, only dropping one set, but there is a man who can do him one better and that man is Gael Monfils. “La Monf” defeated Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets, is still yet to drop a set, and to top it all off, he closed it out with a jumping backhand return winner. The Frenchman is playing the tennis of his life at the moment, and the test of Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals could really show us whether this could be his tournament or not. Another who continued to impress was Madison Keys, as she blew away Paula Badosa, someone who many had as one of the favourites to go all the way. She completely overpowered the Spaniard, outhitting her throughout the entire game.
Exciting matches await next week; Monfils vs Berrettini; Nadal vs Shapovalov; and Krejcikova vs Keys just to name a few. Big names are out, old faces are having a renaissance, and new stars are emerging, but who will be the ones with their hands on the trophies at the end of the day? By this time next week, we’ll have the answers, so until then, we can strap in for another intense week of action.