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Ebden & Purcell Upset Fourth Seeds At Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2022

The home crowds continue to inspire Aussie pairings in the doubles at the Australian Open. After Friday’s heroics from Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis against No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, it was Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell’s turn to delight the fans on Saturday.

Ebden and Purcell channelled the vociferous home support to recover from a set down and beat Colombian fourth-seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 on 1573 Arena.

The Australian pairing hit 30 winners and just five unforced errors as it maintained a foothold in the match before striking at the crucial time, breaking for 6-5 in the third set.

Ebden served it out to set a third-round clash with 13th seeds Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan.

American Rajeev Ram and Briton Joe Salisbury remain on track as they bid for a third consecutive final at Melbourne Park. The second seeds and 2020 champions didn’t offer up a break point and converted four of their own as they brushed past New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell and Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen 6-1, 6-2 in under an hour.

Sydney Tennis Classic finalists Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini showed more good form in ousting ninth-seeded Croatian-Brazilian pairing Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. The Italian duo won six consecutive points on the way to winning the first set tie-break, before sealing a 7-6(2), 6-3 victory. Eighth seeds and 2016 Australian Open winners Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares await in the third round.

Germany’s Tim Puetz and New Zealand’s Michael Venus beat Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena and Frenchman Hugo Gaston 6-1, 6-4. Sixth seeds Puetz and Venus hit 25 winners to their opponents’ 11 as they advanced to set a third-round clash with another all-Aussie duo, wild cards Jason Kubler and Christopher O’Connell.

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Red-Hot Cilic Stuns Rublev

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2022

Marin Cilic rolled back the years Saturday to earn just his second Top 10 win since 2018, upsetting World No. 6 Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open.

The Croatian crushed forehands and hammered backhands in a free-hitting display on Margaret Court Arena to end Rublev’s stay in Australia in emphatic fashion, advancing after two hours and 37 minutes.

“It is incredible,” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “I enjoyed every single second of the match. Andrey is an incredible player, we have played several times in the past and it is always difficult. I had so much fun and played great tennis.”

The 33-year-old, whose last Top 10 win came against then-World No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut at the same stage in Melbourne in 2020, has now advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open eight times, with his best result a run to the final in 2018.

Cilic has improved his ATP Head2Head series to 2-4 against the Russian and will next play Felix Auger-Aliassime after the Canadian defeated 24th seed Daniel Evans 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

“In the evening it is a little bit cooler, so you can go for a bit more on your shots and it really went well for me,” Cilic added. “I served great and that is the way to go against the guys at the top. If you are giving them a chance to hit, you will have trouble, so I was trying to be aggressive and it paid off.”

The 27th seed is one of three former Grand Slam champions left in the draw alongside World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal. Cilic clinched his only slam trophy at the US Open in 2014.

Cilic was strong on serve against Rublev throughout, firing 24 aces as he won 85 per cent (52/61) of his first-serve points. After a dominant first two sets, where the 20-time tour-level titlist swung freely to hit 34 winners, Rublev rallied from 1-3 in the third set. The 24-year-old won five games in a row, including the last 12 points of the set to claw himself back into contention.

However, the Russian was unable to carry his momentum into the fourth set, with Cilic breaking to lead 3-1. This time the Croatian made no mistake, advancing when he fired down an ace, releasing all the tension in the process.

Rublev was aiming to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time. The fifth seed, who defeated Gianluca Mager and Ricardas Berankis earlier this week, is the highest seed to fall in Melbourne this year.

In other action, Australian Alex de Minaur defeated World No. 83 Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time.

The home favourite, who is making his fifth Australian Open appearance, hit 34 winners and broke five times to advance after two hours and nine minutes. The 32nd seed will next face Italian Jannik Sinner after the World No. 10 downed Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.

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Maxime's Mission: Saving Serve & Volley

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2022

Serve and volley is dead. Just don’t tell Maxime Cressy.

The 6’ 6” Paris-born American, who on Saturday defeated Australian Christopher O’Connell to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open in just his fourth Grand Slam outing, is determined to restore the lost art to its rightful place in the game.

Courts are too slow? Returners are too good? Don’t believe it for a second, says Cressy, who is ‘all in’ with serve and volley.

“My vision from the very beginning was to bring serve and volley back,” he said after today’s 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2 win. “I’ve had many different people tell me that it’s dead, that it’s not going to be efficient or effective today… I’ve heard many excuses that it was not going to be the best style for me, but I had a vision and I believe it’s going to happen.”

Cressy said that he commits to being ultra-aggressive on serve, even if it means littering up the stats sheet. He served 32 double faults in his two opening wins against John Isner and Tomas Macach, but was at the top of his game against O’Connell, firing 28 aces to just four double faults.

“The mindset is to go for it. Sometimes I have good days, sometimes bad days and I feel like on the good days it’s very difficult to beat that style of play going for both serves,” he said.

Next up is World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who strikes fear into the hearts of all servers with his exceptionally deep returning position. But there is recent precedent to suggest Cressy’s approach may have a chance of success.

Searching for a new game plan following his loss to Medvedev in the 2021 US Open final, Novak Djokovic threw out the playbook in last year’s Rolex Paris Masters final, serving and volleying 22 times (winning 19 of those points) to take the Russian by surprise en route to the title.

Cressy says that he won’t be intimidated by Medvedev or his return position.

“I actually don’t even think about my opponent because they try many things,” he said. “He would try to return close or if that doesn’t work, far from the baseline… They try different things to get in my head and if I focus on them it disrupts my game. My mindset is to completely block off what my opponent does.”

Cressy, who failed to make the singles line-up in his freshman year at UCLA, suffering daily beatdowns from his teammates, said that it was not until his junior year that he began to have thoughts of playing professionally.

“I had many doubts, of course, but the most important thing is that I kept going and stayed determined. Now the doubts are completely gone.”

That belief has also given him the confidence to pass on any small sponsorship deals as he looks to more lucrative offers as his continues his rise up the ATP Rankings. Last year he won six of 12 matches at tour-level. He is already 9-2 this year, including a run to the final of the Melbourne Summer Set, where he upset Reilly Opelka and Grigor Dimitrov before pushing Rafael Nadal to 7-6(6), 6-3 in the final.

He believes as the results come, sponsors will follow.

“I wait, I’m patient. I wait until I have a major breakthrough and I have leverage to negotiate. I prefer to break through to the Top 50, Top 10, then I negotiate,” he said.

“I can even go to No. 1. I’m very confident. My game style can beat anyone. I played Nadal and I really believe that it really put him in an uncomfortable position.”

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Taylor Tears Up With Australian Open Breakthrough

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2022

One small step in Melbourne, one giant leap for Taylor Fritz.

The 24-year-old American finally reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time after battling past Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-0, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 at the Australian Open on Saturday.

It was the 20th seed’s first third-round win at the majors in eight attempts, and he sees it as another important achievement on his journey to the top. “It’s huge,” said Fritz in his post-match press conference. “It seems stupid, like after that match I was almost close to tearing up a bit. So many people have made the second week of Slams, but it’s just eluded me for so long… it means a tonne. I’m proud, it didn’t come easy, I beat an incredibly tough guy.”

Fritz’s previous third-round opponents at majors have included World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and 2020 U.S. Open winner Dominic Thiem. The American acknowledged that draws haven’t always favoured him, but he had always retained belief in his own ability to reach a fourth round.

“I never doubted it would happen,” said the World No. 22, “but I definitely was getting sick of playing Top-4 players for the opportunity every time.

“I have had a lot of tough matches, honestly a lot of tough draws, never gotten a great look at it. I served for the match in one of them, and then one of the other more winnable ones, my opponent just played amazing, was way too good.”

Fritz will be able to measure his progress further when he takes on fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round in Melbourne. The Greek leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0, but the pair has not met since 2019. “We played quite a bit in the juniors,” said Fritz on the Greek World No. 4. “We’ve definitely had some battles, but I feel like it’s not a bad matchup for me at all.

“I’m playing well, so I kind of just have to recover well. Funny enough, I feel much better after this match than I did after my last match. If my body is feeling good and I’m feeling good, then I feel confident.”

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Sinner Sinks Daniel, Reaches R4

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2022

Jannik Sinner was made to work hard Saturday to book his place in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time, moving past Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 on Kia Arena.

The 11th seed breezed through his opening two matches in straight sets against Joao Sousa and Steve Johnson in Melbourne. But he found the going much tougher against an inspired Daniel, who was fresh off an impressive victory over former World No. 1 Andy Murray.

“I am very happy about my match wins [this week],” Sinner said in his post-match press conference. “But talking about the match today, it was a tough match for me. I didn’t know him very well. I started well but after that I made a couple of unforced errors and he raised his level, not missing many balls in the second set. It was not the most clinical performance but I am through into the second week.”

After a strong start, Sinner, who is making his third appearance at Melbourne Park, had no answer for Daniel’s powerful hitting in the second set, struggling to find his range from the baseline.

However, with the pressure on, the Italian successfully switched into top gear in the third and fourth sets, striking the ball with more aggression and consistency to advance after two hours and 41 minutes in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.

The 20-year-old will next face World No. 83 Pablo Andujar or 32nd-seeded Australian Alex de Minaur. With his victory, Sinner has become the first man since Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009 to advance to the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the fourth time before turning 21 years old. The 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion reached the last 16 at Roland Garros and the US Open in 2021, with his best result at a major coming in Paris in 2020, when he advanced to the quarter-finals.

Sinner, who fired 57 winners against Daniel, enjoyed a standout 2021 season, winning four tour-level titles, before he made his debut as an alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals on home soil in Turin.

In an entertaining match, Sinner took time away from Daniel in the first set as he took the ball early to outmanoeuvre the World No. 120. He broke three times in the set to move ahead, but could not build on his lead at the start of the second set as Daniel raised his intensity.

The 28-year-old committed just six unforced errors in the set to level, but could not stay with the Italian in the third set, with Sinner gaining the crucial break in the eighth game. The World No. 10 then held to seal the set on serve, before storming away to victory as he finally broke Daniel’s resilience.

Daniel was aiming to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time in what was his 18th appearance at a Grand Slam.

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