Australian Open Update
The 4th Round and second week of the Australian Open starts Sunday and the US has a strong presence with both men and women.
It’s been almost two full decades since this many US men reached week two at the AO.
The group in 2004 included Grand Slam Champions Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick but the present quartet are new to the second week of a Slam!
Tommy Paul – 25yrs., J.J. Wolf – 24yrs., Sebastian Korda – 22yrs., and Ben Shelton – 20yrs., are all about to play their first 4th Round match at Melbourne Park.
It should feel very much like an opportunity for a career-defining result for them and other young men still in the draw.
Wolf, ranked 67, commented, ”I haven’t thought about it too much, honestly, because I just have that one-match-at-time mentality, but I think it’s hard for anyone to look past that. There’s been a lot of upsets.”
Wolf, who played college tennis at Ohio State, eliminated lucky loser Michael Mmoh 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, in an all-American matchup on Saturday.
Wolf said, ”But upsets happen for a reason. A lot of people out here are good. It’s a real opportunity.” Wolf next plays yet another American, 89th-ranked Shelton, who won the NCAA title for the University of Florida as a sophomore last year, then turned pro.
Using his passport for the first time in his life to travel outside the US, Shelton extended his stay in his Australian Open debut by defeating 113th – ranked Australian wild-card entry Alexi Popyrin 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4.
Tommy Paul, who is ranked 35, topped Californian Jenson Brooksby 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.
Next for Paul will be 14th seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, who ended the exhausting run of Andy Murray by beating the three-time major champion 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4.
That result, the last of the third round, left Novak Djokovic as the only player among the 16 men who has won a Grand Slam title. Not only that, but the other 15 have participated in a combined total of one major final – No.3 seed Stephanos Tsitsipas lost to Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final.
This is seen by most people as a period of transition in men’s tennis, a chance for new faces to make themselves known. Two players looking to advance further and fill that gap are No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev, a 25yr-old Russian, and No. 9 seed Holger Rune a 19yr-old from Denmark.
They are set to face each other for a quarter-final birth on Monday. Neither Rublev or Rune has been past the final eight at any Grand Slam tournament. Nor has No. 22 Alex de Minaur, a 23yr-old from Australia, who advanced Saturday and now has the unenviable task of playing 21-time Slam champion Novak Djokovic.
Nine of those titles came at Melbourne Park, and Djokovic has now won 24 consecutive matches there after beating No. 27 Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4 at night despite some more signs of trouble from his left hamstring.
Looking ahead to facing de Minaur in front of what is sure to be a very partisan crowd Djokovic told the Rod Laver Arena spectators – ”I don’t know how many of you will be on my side. I don’t think too many.”
After early losses by some of the high seeds such as Nadal, No.1, Caspar Ruud No.2, and No.7 Daniil Medvedev this has at least made some of the newcomers feel welcome in the second week.
Even if they don’t want to publicly express too much optimism, they are well aware of increased opportunity. An intriguing fourth-round matchup in the womens draw was established with No.5 Aryna Sabalenka to take on No.12 Belinda Bencic.
Sabalenka is now 7-0 in 2023 wins after beating Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3 and Bencic stretched her winning streak to eight matches by defeating Camila Giorgi 6-2, 7-5.
Other womens week two matchups are:-
No.4 seed Caroline Garcia vs unseeded Magda Linette – who had been 0-6 in the third round at majors until beating No.19 Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday night – two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova vs No.23 Shuai Zhang and Donna Vekic vs 17yr-old Linda Fruhvirtova.
”It feels pretty surreal,” said Fruhvirtova, who is appearing in just her second major tournament and got past 2019 French runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in a match between a pair of Czech Republic players.
Fruhvirtova added, ”Yeah, it’s an incredible feeling. I’m just so happy and excited to be able to say, ‘Hi, second week!’ ”