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Michael Mmoh: From Cowboys & Bucs To Riding His Aussie Open Luck

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2023

Michael Mmoh: From Cowboys & Bucs To Riding His Aussie Open Luck

American lucky loser has a chance to reach fourth round

Michael Mmoh was sitting in his hotel room on Tuesday watching the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL playoffs. The American had lost in the final round of Australian Open qualifying and his hopes of taking a spot in the main draw appeared slim, so he booked his flight home.

“I was fully locked in on that game. Then all of a sudden I got a call from the ATP guy. Right when I saw the notification, I answered it right away. Like, literally,” Mmoh said Thursday. “I have never answered a phone call so fast in my life. First ring, and I was on it.”

The 25-year-old was told to be on site and get ready, since there was a possibility of a withdrawal that would see him enter the draw. Once David Goffin withdrew, the American was next on Court 13 to play Frenchman Laurent Lokoli. In the match ahead of them, Linda Fruhvirtova was leading Jaimee Fourlis 6-0, 2-0.

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“I literally just grabbed my bag, grabbed a bunch of match clothes. Luckily everything was kind of in there already. Went straight to the site,” Mmoh said. “Also luckily, that match slowed down a little bit…

“Then another thing that went in my favour is I went basically straight to the match court, and then there was that heat delay. That kind of helped me.”

Even so, heat was not the only factor. It also rained, which wreaked more havoc on the match. Through the whirlwind of events, Lokoli took a 6-4, 6-2, 6-6 (6/6) lead, when a rain delay sent the players off court with the Frenchman two points from victory. When they returned, Mmoh missed a short forehand to give Lokoli match point, putting the World No. 175 on the brink of his first tour-level win. The Frenchman double faulted to give Mmoh life.

“At that point I just knew, if he wasn’t going to take the match, there had to be somebody to take the match. I could see that he was very nervous at that point,” Mmoh said. “I felt like I was playing well, but just things weren’t really going my way. But I knew if I won that set, the momentum would have shifted. He would have been thinking about that moment, and I felt like I was the better player.”

The American took full advantage of the opportunity. He won the tie-break, claimed the fourth set and took a 3-1 lead in the decider, when weather again suspended play, this time until Wednesday.

When the players continued the match, there was far less drama. Mmoh cruised through the rest of the fifth set, triumphing 6-2 in the decider to reach the second round at Melbourne Park for the third time. It was not that long ago he was sitting in his hotel room preparing to fly home.

“At that point, [I thought I had] zero [chance]. At this point I was even talking to my fiancee, and she was like, ‘Why don’t you fly out tonight?’ I was, like, ‘I would, but I don’t even think there [are] flights,’” Mmoh recalled. “I’m here now. Like, what if I was at the airport and somehow I got a last-minute call? Then I would be screwed. So I’ve got to stay just this one afternoon basically.”

The dream run did not stop there. Mmoh on Thursday stunned two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in four sets to reach the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time.

“I don’t know if I’m going to finally wake up or something. It just doesn’t seem real. Like, the past 48 hours have been a complete whirlwind from going from being ready to go back home, booking a flight, packing my bags. I was supposed to leave yesterday,” Mmoh said. “Now I’m here, and I just had the best win of my career. It just doesn’t seem real.”

Mmoh in action during the second round at the <a href=''>Australian Open</a>, where he upset <a href=''>Alexander Zverev</a>.
Mmoh in action during the second round in Melbourne, where he upset Zverev. Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Mmoh is up to No. 82 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, which will put him at a new career high on 30 January regardless of how he performs the rest of the fortnight. This did not come out of the blue, though.

The American finished 2022 on a high, winning two ATP Challenger Tour titles and reaching another final from September. He credits that to remaining healthy.

“To be honest, I haven’t been this healthy in my whole career. I think in 2018 I got out the Top 100, and I was main draw Australian Open, and I was main draw [in] some of the ATP events following. I got injured, and I was out for six months,” Mmoh said. “It’s always been a stop-start in my career, but the last 12 months or 12 to 14 months I’ve been 100 per cent healthy.

“I’ve been playing every event that I want to play. I think that’s a blessing because not every week is going to go your way.”

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Mmoh is enjoying a dream run on and off the court. One month ago, he proposed to fiancee Klara Mrcela. Now he will play J.J. Wolf for a place in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

“Insane. Insane. You know, because the thing is I proposed, and then two days later I left to come to these tournaments. So it would have been maybe a little sad if I would have came back and lost in qualies,” Mmoh said. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, but to come back after probably the biggest win of my career… We definitely have got to celebrate that moment together when we’re back, along with the engagement.”

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Medvedev Drops From Top 10 After Korda Defeat

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2023

Medvedev Drops From Top 10 After Korda Defeat

The 26-year-old falls to No. 12 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings

Daniil Medvedev was aiming for his second major title and first Down Under this fortnight. Instead, he will leave the Australian Open with disappointment for a third straight year.

After almost tasting victory a year ago in Melbourne, before Rafael Nadal’s epic comeback, Medvedev won’t see the second week of this year’s tournament after Sebastian Korda upset the seventh seed 7-6(7), 6-3, 7-6(4) on Friday.

Despite the disappointment of an early round straight-sets defeat, Medvedev gave a clear cut answer explaining the loss.

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“I think it was a match where he was just better than me,” Medvedev said in his post-match press conference. “Right now I’m struggling a little bit to win these kinds of matches against opponents that can play at a good level. That’s what I have to find back.”

Nearly 11 months ago, Medvedev rose to World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings shortly after finishing runner-up at the 2022 Australian Open. This year’s result in Melbourne means a far different outcome for Medvedev’s ranking. Friday’s third-round defeat means the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion will crash out of the Top 10 for the first time since July 2019.

Despite not getting past the fourth round in his past three Slam appearances (Australian Open, US Open, Roland Garros) and collecting just two Tour-level titles in 2022 (Los Cabos, Vienna), Medvedev is hungry to find answers to help lift him towards contending for the game’s most prestigious titles again. The 26-year-old also suffered a trio of tight three-set defeats at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals. But he’s not giving up hope.

“My shots are there, I’m doing the right thing,” Medvedev said. “Today was a little bit different where he was on top of me all the time and I was trying to come back every set, trying to fight, trying to be there.

“That’s why tennis is so tough because in the Top 30 everyone can beat everybody. Of course, the Top 10 are more consistent, and that’s why I’m dropping down a little bit now but everyone can beat everybody.”

Although Medvedev had won his previous meeting with Korda at the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters, the American brought a different level today, firing his all-court game from every corner of the court. The 22-year-old produced consistent depth and often worked his way forward to test Medvedev’s deep court positioning.

Medvedev isn’t the only one to notice great potential in the young American Korda. In the first week of the season, Novak Djokovic fended off a championship point to defeat the Florida native and win the Adelaide International 1. The 92-time Tour-level titlist said Korda has, ‘beautiful-looking tennis’. The 2021 US Open champion Medvedev also praised Korda following their contest on Rod Laver Arena, revealing that his style of play reminds him of the man who beat Korda in Adelaide a couple weeks ago.

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“The most difficult thing is that he hits the ball very strong. Probably one of the strongest hitters,” Medvedev said. “Also takes [the ball] very early. There are some other guys playing like this, but they miss more than him. And he didn’t miss that much.

“His game is kind of different from everybody because he’s very aggressive and takes the ball very early. A little bit maybe like Novak.”

Medevdev, who drops to No. 12 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, was aiming to become the fourth man in the Open Era to reach three consecutive Australian Open finals. The 15-time Tour-level titlist will instead have a few weeks off from competition before his next event, the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam, which runs from 13-19 February.

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Felix Fires Into Melbourne Fourth Round

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2023

Felix Fires Into Melbourne Fourth Round

Canadian downs Cerundolo, meets Lehecka next after Czech upsets Norrie

Felix Auger-Aliassime continued his battling progress through the Australian Open draw on Friday with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against 28th seed Francisco Cerundolo. After coming from behind in each of his first two Melbourne victories, the Canadian never trailed in John Cain Arena, advancing to the fourth round for the third straight year Down Under.

The sixth seed made a blistering start by racing to a 5-0 lead, in stark contrast to his previous matches against Vasek Pospisil and Alex Molcan, in which he lost the opening set — as well as set two in the second round against Molcan.

“I had a great start compared to my two first rounds, so this was better,” he said post-match. “It kind of gave me a little cushion. Against tough opponents there’s going to be ups and downs. I was playing a bit tight and not going for it in the second set, and he did, so credit to him.

“I’m happy with the way I turned things around and I think the last two sets were probably some of my best ones so far this tournament.”

Cerundolo claimed the second set by dragging Auger-Aliassime into longer rallies, securing his only two breaks of the match in successive return games. But the Argentine could not generate a break point in any other set as his opponent’s quick-strike tennis kept him in control.

While Auger-Aliassime may have been disappointed not to take any of his seven late break chances late in the fourth set — three of which doubled as match points — he closed out the contest with authority, clinching victory with his ninth ace.

“Pure relief and happiness,” the Canadian said of his feelings after the win. “I’ve been playing well the past few years here, for the third time in a row in the Round of 16. I’ve had some great memories, especially on this court, it’s one of the best crowds in the world.”

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Finishing in two hours, 35 minutes, the third-round match is the shortest of the 22-year-old’s tournament so far. He next faces 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up Jiri Lehecka.

Auger-Aliassime reached the Melbourne quarter-finals for the first time last year, surrendering a two-set lead to eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev in a heartbreaking defeat. The pair could square off again in the semi-finals this fortnight. Should Auger-Aliassime reach that stage, it would equal his best Grand Slam result (2021 US Open).

While he has held steady at No. 7 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings this week, the Canadian can move ahead of Rafael Nadal at No. 6 with one more win in Melbourne.

Cerundolo, 24, was bidding to extend his best major run; he had not advanced beyond the first round in four previous Grand Slam appearances. The Argentine won his first tour-level title last year in Bastad, where he earned his first Top 10 win against Casper Ruud.

Lehecka set the meeting with Auger-Aliassime by delivering a resilient display to upset 11th seed Cameron Norrie 6-7(8), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. The Czech’s Melbourne run appeared in danger after Norrie forged a two-sets-to-one lead on Kia Arena, but Lehecka charged back to secure a win in which he struck 51 winners to his opponents 31.

Lehecka’s three-hour, 12-minute win avenged his three-set loss to Norrie at the ASB Classic in Auckland just nine days ago. The 21-year-old arrived in Melbourne with a 0-4 record at Grand Slams but has now taken out two seeded opponents en route to the fourth round, following his first-round victory against Borna Coric.

Three victories in Melbourne have lifted Lehecka 21 spots to No. 50 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He is the 11th Czech man in the Open Era to reach the Round of 16 at the Australian Open.

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