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Rublev Saves 2 MPs To Win Wild Rune Encounter

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2023

Rublev Saves 2 MPs To Win Wild Rune Encounter

Fifth seed advances to seventh Grand Slam quarter-final

The first Top 10 matchup of the 2023 Australian Open exceeded its blockbuster billing as Andrey Rublev edged Holger Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(11-9) on Monday in Rod Laver Arena.

In a scarcely believable fifth set, Rublev fought back from 2-5, saved two match points on serve at 5-6, then clawed back from a 0/5 hole in the decisive tie-break. On his third match point, he clinched victory in the cruelest of ways from the Dane’s perspective, when a net cord dribbled over the net.

“I never in my life was able to win matches like this,” Rublev said post-match. “This is the first ever time that I won something like this, especially in a very special tournament, the Australian Open, to be in the quarter-finals. So it’s something I will remember for sure all my life. I have no words, I am shaking and happy.” 

Over the course of three hours, 37 minutes, the twists and turns started early and began to build toward the climax early in the fourth set. Rune was struggling physically as he saved two break points in its first game, but after a visit from the trainer, he found and stole the set — but only after failing to serve it out at 5-3.

The Dane was at his best early in set five, combining big hitting with athletic defending, ultimately converting on his fourth break chance of the set to lead 3-1. But once again, he could not serve out the set — and this time, what would have been the match — as Rublev won 12 of 13 points to roar back from 2-5.

It was far from the last time the fifth seed would have his back to the wall, but he answered the call again to book his place in the Melbourne quarter-finals, where he will play Novak Djokovic or Alex de Minaur. It is Rublev’s seventh Grand Slam quarter-final, and his second at the Australian Open, though he has yet to advance beyond that stage at a major.

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Both Rublev and Rune entertained the Laver crowd with big hitting and clever shotmaking, but they could not seem to find their best tennis at the same time. With the pressure ratcheted up in the final-set tie-break, Rune found early success as he frustrated his opponent with a steady baseline strategy, baiting him into errors. 

With the match once again slipping away, Rublev turned up the heat as he imposed his will down the stretch, flipping the tie-break with a run of six straight points to lead 9/7. After Rune showed his fighting spirit by saving two match points — one of them with a brilliant backhand pass after desperate defending — Rublev landed the softest of final blows with the friendly net cord.

“When I hit it in the beginning, I saw how the ball clearly hit the net and was on my side,” he said of the moment time stood still as the ball hung in the air. “Sometimes it can be a bit higher, and then maybe [it goes over]. But that ball was exactly on my side and I don’t know how [it] went over.”

Rune, who was making his second appearance in Melbourne, did not drop a set en route to the fourth round. However, he was unable to move past Rublev and reach his second major quarter-final.

“I think it was a great match,” said Rune, who advanced to the last eight at Roland Garros last season. “I think I had all the chances that I could wish for. I just didn’t close him. I had 5-2 in the fifth, 5-3 in the tiebreak. I thought I played strong from the fourth set. I raised my game a little bit.

“I think I took my chances well, just not in the fifth set. That is where it matters. He was better than me in the important moments. Congrats to him.”

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Day 8 Preview: Djokovic, Demon Clash Down Under

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2023

Day 8 Preview: Djokovic, Demon Clash Down Under

Top-10 seeds Rublev and Rune meet on Rod Laver Arena

Novak Djokovic looks to avoid an upset against home favourite Alex de Minaur when they meet in the fourth round Monday at the 2023 Australian Open. Also on Monday’s card is a Rod Laver Arena showdown which will decide the clash of Top-10 seeds Andrey Rublev and Holger Rune. And the Americans look to continue their strong performance in Melbourne, where Tommy Paul, J.J. Wolf, and Ben Shelton are all competing in the round of 16. looks at what to watch on Day 8 at Melbourne Park as players bid for a quarter-final spot.

[4] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [22] Alex de Minaur (AUS)

With a potential 10th Australian Open crown in sight, the fourth seed must first get past a tricky test under the lights on Rod Laver Arena as home hope de Minaur looks to spoil the Serbian’s chances in their first meeting.

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Djokovic, who hasn’t lost in Melbourne since 2018 (did not play in 2022), is bidding to record his 25th consecutive match win at the Australian Open and equal his longest streak of victories at the season’s first Slam.

The 21-time major champion, who has dealt with a hamstring injury since the ATP 250 event in Adelaide earlier this month, has dropped just one set through his first three matches and remains optimistic that the injury won’t hamper his title chances.

“It requires a lot of energy that is being spent from my side mentally and physically,” Djokovic said of his injury problem that’s forced him to play with his left hamstring strapped this fortnight. “To deal with the match with my opponent and also not the ideal physical state. It is what it is. It’s a kind of circumstance that you have to accept. I’m just very grateful that I’m actually able to play. The way it looked just before the tournament started, I thought that it wouldn’t be possible. I’m still here and still holding on.”

Should de Minaur stun Djokovic, the Aussie would equal his best Grand Slam performance (2020 US Open QFs). With the home crowd behind him, de Minaur has reason to believe he can add to this year’s Australian Open upset list. The Sydney native recorded his first victory against a Top-5 opponent in November, when he defeated Daniil Medvedev at the Rolex Paris Masters and followed it up with a win against Rafael Nadal at the season-opening United Cup.

[5] Andrey Rublev vs. [9] Holger Rune (DEN)

After both men cruised through their third-round matches, Monday’s contest is sure to be a thrilling battle from the baseline. On Saturday, Rublev crushed 60 winners to take down Great Britain’s Daniel Evans. The Danish teen will look to counter Rublev’s heavy-hitting with his own power and precision.

Rublev is bidding to reach the quarter-finals of a Slam for a seventh time and second Down Under. A four-time titlist this past season, Rublev produced strong performances in the opening three rounds against 2020 finalist Dominic Thiem, Emil Ruusuvuori, and Evans. Rublev is seeking revenge from this past season, when Rune defeated him at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris en route to collecting the biggest title of his career.

Rune, 19, hasn’t given up a set this tournament. The teenager is aiming to become the youngest man to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open since 1990 (Andrey Cherkasov). A 2022 Roland Garros quarter-finalist (l. Ruud), Rune is looking to equal his best Grand Slam performance in just his second appearance in Melbourne.

[24] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs. Tommy Paul (USA)

Although the Spaniard leads the ATP Head2Head series 3-1, ‘RBA’ will seek revenge on Margaret Court Arena after the American won their most recent encounter at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Bautista Agut is bidding to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the second time and equal his best Australian Open result. Should he advance, he would become the fifth Spanish man in the Open Era to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open on multiple occasions (Nadal, Ferrer, Moya, Ferrero).

After cruising through the opening round, Bautista Agut came back from two sets to love down to defeat American Brandon Holt and in the third round the 34-year-old needed three hours, 29 minutes to survive Andy Murray.

Paul looks to carry his momentum from his Saturday victory, when he conceded just eight games to countryman Jenson Brooksby. The World No. 35, who has equalled his best Grand Slam result (Wimbledon 2022), is looking to join Sebastian Korda and the winner of Shelton and Wolf in the quarter-finals. The last time three Americans reached the last eight at the Australian Open was 2000 (Sampras, Agassi, Woodruff).

Ben Shelton (USA) vs. J.J. Wolf (USA)

The all-American clash between Ben Shelton and J.J. Wolf features two former college standouts. The winner will become the fourth man in the past 20 years to reach the quarter-finals on his Australian Open debut. With Sebastian Korda already through to the last eight, it is guaranteed that two American men will reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time since 2007.

Shelton, who won the 2022 NCAA singles title at the University of Florida, hopes to continue his dream run in just his second Grand Slam appearance. After surviving a five-set opening round match against Zhang Zhizhen, the American solidified victory in straight sets against Nicolas Jarry and Alexei Popyrin.

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Boasting a heavy serve and the ability to hit winners from all corners of the court, Shelton would rise into the Top 50 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings with a victory over his countryman. This past season, the 20-year-old made quick progress on the ATP Challenger Tour and became the youngest player to win three Challenger titles (Charlottesville, Knoxville, Champaign) in as many weeks.

Wolf, 24, is aiming to improve on what is already his best major performance. The former Ohio State University star has given up just one set all week en route to taking out Jordan Thompson, Diego Schwartzman, and Michael Mmoh.

In Doubles Action…

Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski kick off Kia Arena action against Nikola Cacic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. On Court 3, third seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Marcelo Arevalo meet Dutch duo Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop. 2020 Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury continue their title quest against Polish team Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski.

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Ram/Salisbury Survive Aussie Test

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2023

Ram/Salisbury Survive Aussie Test

The 2020 Australian Open champs next face Nys/Zielinski

Second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury narrowly avoided an upset against home favourites Marc Polmans and Alexei Popyrin during Sunday’s second-round doubles action at the 2023 Australian Open. The 2022 Nitto ATP Finals champions ousted the Aussie wild card duo 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3.

Ram and Salisbury, who are No. 1 and 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, play their best tennis when the stage is the biggest. In 2022, the American-British duo earned four team titles, including the US Open crown. Ram and Salisbury are aiming for their second Australian Open title (2020).

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They will next meet Polish team Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski, who rallied from a set down to take out Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(7).

Two French teams were victorious Sunday, including Arthur Rinderknech and Benjamin Bonzi, who fended off all six break points faced to down Nicolas Barrientos and Ariel Behar 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(2). Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin defeated Indian duo N.Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 6-4, 6-4.

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Tsitsipas Holds Off Sinner Charge To Reach Australian Open QFs

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2023

Tsitsipas Holds Off Sinner Charge To Reach Australian Open QFs

Third seed improves to 5-1 in pair’s ATP Head2Head series

Stefanos Tsitsipas passed a real test of his title-winning credentials Sunday at the Australian Open, where the third seed held firm in the face of a Jannik Sinner onslaught to clinch a thrilling 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 fourth-round victory.

Having marched through his opening three matches in Melbourne without dropping a set, the Greek was presented with the biggest test of his campaign by 21-year-old Sinner. A remarkable mid-match rise in level from the Italian set a tense finish on Rod Laver Arena, but Tsitsipas retained his composure, dialled in behind his serve and huge forehand, and clinched a decisive break in the sixth game of the fifth set en route to a gripping four-hour win.

“It was a long match, guys, I feel like I spent an entire century in this court playing tennis,” said Tsitsipas to the crowd in his on-court interview. “It felt so long. What a great night… I’m really excited to be sharing moments like this on the court, especially in Australia. I’m trying to do my best out here, it’s not easy. I had an unbelievable opponent on the other side of the court today, playing incredible tennis in the third and fourth sets.”

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Despite Tsitsipas easing to the first two sets, an increasingly confident Sinner dominated the baseline exchanges in the third and fourth sets to carry the momentum into the decider. Yet the Italian was left to rue missed chances throughout the match — he converted just four of 26 break points as Tsitsipas’ clutch serving at key moments helped keep his hopes of claiming a maiden Grand Slam title this fortnight in Melbourne alive.

The victory extended Tsitsipas’ ATP Head2Head series lead against Sinner to 5-1. The Greek, who will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time should he lift the trophy in Melbourne, will next take on Jiri Lehecka as he bids for a third straight Australian Open semi-final appearance.

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Early in Sunday’s clash, Sinner frequently struggled to match Tsitsipas’ consistency in the baseline exchanges as the third seed delighted his vocal supporters in the crowd with a clinical display across the first two sets. Having broken Sinner’s serve four times for a two-sets-to-love lead, however, Tsitsipas lost his way.

Sinner began to dictate with ease from the baseline and was particularly effective with his drop shot. The Italian carved out 18 break point chances across the third and fourth sets and, despite only converting two of them, levelled a match he had appeared destined to comfortably lose.

From there, the greater experience of three-time Australian Open semi-finalist Tsitsipas began to show. He steadied himself on serve with a barrage of powerful and precise first deliveries before crucially breaking Sinner in the sixth game of the deciding set. The 24-year-old remained untroubled on serve from then on to seal a spot in his sixth Grand Slam quarter-final.

“I think I just released my arm a little bit, released my wrist on the serve,” said Tsitsipas, who made 92 per cent (24/26) of first serves in the fifth set. “I think that helped me a lot to generate more power and accuracy, something that I wasn’t doing before. It completely changed the way I approached the match, since that moment when I made that minor adjustment. That helped me serve it out pretty well towards the end without being too tense.”

Tsitsipas, who now holds a 19-5 record at the Australian Open, next prepares for a second tour-level meeting against 21-year-old Lehecka. The Czech will be feeling confident after upsetting sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) earlier on Sunday, although it was Tsitsipas who prevailed in three sets in the pair’s previous tour-level meeting in Rotterdam last February.

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