‘Swiss Magic is on’
All talk of whether Thomas Berdych could stall Roger Federer’s progress to the round of 16 fell flat, as the Swiss magician put a master class performance to tame the 10th seeded Czech in three straight games and set up a mouth-watering pre-quarterfinal against Kei Nishikori. Meeting for the 23rd time, Federer, holding a 16-6 advantage, stream rolled his much younger opponent with some breath-taking tennis. Bringing to the table a wide range of strokes, Federer proved a point that the old guard is here to stay and the young guns needs to wait for some more time to make an impact. A simple stat on the Open shows that, of the 64 players aged over 30 or over (46 men and 18 women) 23 seasoned campaigners (16 men and seven women) have progressed to the third round. The Next Gen must bide their time.
Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray also progressed to the round of 16 and await their opponents. Angelique Kerber, had an easy outing against Kristyna Pliskova, losing a mere 4 games. Serena Williams made short work of fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1,6-3. Dominika Cibulkova, Johana Konta also made it to the round of 16.
Novak Djokovic bids adieu
In one of the greatest upsets Novak Djokovic crushed out of the Australian Open 2nd round, the Serb losing in 5 sets to Denis Istomin. As predicted, Novak was not his usual confident self and held himself in going for his shots at crucial times. His game was a mixture of caution and error, the 9 double faults and 72 unforced errors standing testimony to the cause. The wildcard Ukranian, ranked 117 in the world, had not won a match against Djokovic in 5 attempts. The first game alone lasted 16 minutes on the Serbs serve, with Djokovic staving off 6 break points. Istomin took the first set on a tie break and was on the brink of taking a two set to love lead with a pair of break points on Djokovic serve. But the Serb counter attacked and took the second set 7-5.
Djokovic found renewed vigour in the third set and cashing in on Istomin’s fatigue and immobility, cruised through the third set 6-2. But there was a dramatic twist to the tale in the fourth set and as the long shadows settled on the Rod Laver Arena, Istomin came out firing all cylinders early on, broke Djokovic, held on the momentum, shook off foot and cramp complaints and held grimly to take the match to the final set. With much at stake and unexpected adulations waiting, Istomin did not look back, breaking the Serb’s serve again early and maintained the advantage to snatch a thrilling victory. It is difficult to believe, that a man, who has won the title 6 times in ten tries, make an exit as early as round two. Istomin, on the other hand, has more matches lost than won in his career (209/194) and 3rd round appearances in 2010 and 2014 is all that he can show as his best performance in the Australian Open. Djokovic was gracious in defeat and complimented his opponent in the customary post-match press conference and said the better player won the match.
There was no other major disaster in the men’s side of the competition with all the seeded players moving on to the next round. The women’s saw one upset when third seeded Agnieszka Radwanska fell to Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets. She was the highest seed to fall on the wayside, ending a tumultuous day.
Seppi does an Aussie coup
The seeds fared as expected on day three at Melbourne park. Except for local boy Nick Kyrgios and seventh seed Marin Cilic, all top players went through to the next round. The likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Bernard Tomic, Kei Nishikori, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Thomas Berdych went through to the 3rd round. While Cilic bowed out in a 5 setter to Daniel Evans of Great Britain, Nick Kyrgios, after leading 2 sets to love against Andreas Seppi, lost the next 3 in bizarrecircumstances to be out of contention. Kyrgios was constantly engaging in a verbal banter with his team as he appeared peeved about apparently having to put in extra work on his day off on Tuesday. He was docked a penalty point after receiving a second code violation for smashing his racquet. Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt was hoping that his Davis Cup charge could turn things around. Former world number one Jim Courier described Kyrgios act as apathetic and said that the constant bickering against someone specific in his team messed up his match.
The women’s seeding went on predicted lines with the number one seed Angelique Kerber moving to the next round.
Novak Djokovic on course
Serena Williams opened her quest for a 7th Australian Open title with a straight set victory over Belinda Bencic. The American looked strong and aggressive in disposing off her opponent. Fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 US Open runner up was in good form against Sorribes Tormo of Spain, losing only 2 games in the process. Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, ninth seed Johana Konta, seventh seed Dominika Cibulkova, Caroline Wozniacki all went to the next round without hiccups.
The much anticipated first round match between Novak Djokovic and Fernando Verdasco turned out to be a routine affair for the Serb as Djokovic dispatched the Spaniard in straight sets. Any chance of an upset victory for Verdasco were put to rest as Djokovic played a clinical second game to win the tie-breaker and seal the match in 3 sets.
Rafael Nadal went through in straight sets. Milos Raonic match against journey man Dustin Brown was expected to throw some good tennis. The dreadlocked Jamaican-German is known for his aggressive and flashy play style. His raise to fame after defeating Nadal in 2014 Halle Open and 2015 Wimbledon is well documented. However, Raonic the 6ft 5inches Canadian giant, brought the German to ground with his hard hitting serves to win the match in 3 sets. Fifteen seeded Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, under rated twenty first seed David Ferrer, eighth seed Dominic Thiem and sixth seed Gael Monfils went through to the next round.
‘Andy Murray on song’
The first day of tournament saw the scalp of women’s 4th seed Simona Halep, the Romanian going down in straight sets to Shelby Rogers of USA. The women’s number one seed Angelique Kerber came through in 3 sets against the lesser known Tsurenko. Thirteenth seed Venus Williams, seventh seed Garbine Muguruza, Suárez Navarro, all had safe passage to round two. The number one seed Andy Murray began his campaign for his maiden Australian Open title when he came through unscathed in 3 sets against Illya Marchenko of Ukraine. Roger Federer was up against Jurgen Melzer, the Swiss maestro winning in 4 sets. Federer did not show any major concern on his comeback from injury, except in the 2ndset. He goes on to play Noah Rubin in the second round. Fourth seeded Stan Wawrinka, seventh seeded Marin Cilic, fifth seed Kei Nishikoriand twelfth seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all had an easy walk in the park, dispatching off their respective opponents en-route to the 2nd round. There was cheer for the Australian fans as two of their famous sons; Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic went through to round two in style.