Sandgren Knocks Out Berrettini At Australian Open

MELBOURNE, January 22, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)

Marathon matches and multiple upsets headlined men’s action on Day 3 at the Australian Open. The biggest surprise of the day was caused by Tennys Sandgren, who rallied past No. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini 7-6(7), 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5 in three hours and 23 minutes to reach the third round.

On his way to victory, the 28-year-old American struck 22 aces, won 80 per-cent (84/105) first serve points and hit 45 winners in total. Little margins indicated the victor, with Berrettini winning four more points in total (152-148), but Sandgren being clutch and therefore prevailing in the important rallies.

“You gear your schedule to peak in these weeks. I’m getting get better at that as I get older. Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser. I take my weeks off so I can prep for these weeks,” Sandgren said afterwards.

Sandgren was unable to defend his title at the ASB Classic in Auckland last week and consequently fell to No. 100 in the ATP Rankings. He will next take on compatriot Sam Querrey, who beat Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 earlier the day.

Querrey is aiming to reach the second week Down Under for the first time in his career, while Sandgren focuses on repeating his magnificent run from 2018, when he reached the quarterfinals after taking out Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem.

However, Sandgren should not stay the only American to score an upset today. Twenty-two year-old Tommy Paul prevailed over No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov in a marathon match, winning 6-4, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-7(3), 7-6(10-3) in four hours and 19 minutes.

“I’ve never been a part of something like that, honestly. A lot of fun playing in front of all you guys. Towards the end of the fifth, it was you guys who got me through it,” Paul said during the on-court interview.

Over the course of the match, Dimitrov managed to stabilize his ground strokes, minimizing his errors but also landing more successful aggressive approaches.

The 28-year-old Bulgarian broke Paul’s serve to gain the upper hand in the fifth set, serving for the match at 5-4. Dimitrov was just two points away from reaching the third round, but Paul showed a lot of heart, went for worthy “all or nothing” strokes and eventually won the next four points.

Dimitrov lost his composure in the following match tie-break, serving nervously, while Paul remained focused and grinded out four mini breaks to scramble for a victory.

The World No. 80 will face Marton Fucsovics next, who backed up his brilliant first-round win over Denis Shapovalov by beating another Next-Gen star, namely Jannik Sinner, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

More dramatic five-setters

It was certainly not an easy day at the office for 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic, but he managed to battle his way through the third round by beating world No. 21 Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(10-3). Cilic won 79 per-cent first serve points (85/107) and fired 17 aces. The Croatian next plays ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and is trying to reach the second week in Melbourne for the third consecutive year.

Bautista Agut, the No. 9 seed, recovered from a set down to eventually win 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 over American wildcard Michael Mmoh. The Spaniard struggled to convert his breakpoints (0/5) in the first set, while Mmoh took profit of his only breakpoint in the entire match to punish Bautista Agut’s inefficiency and grab the opening set. In the end, however, the Castellon native prevailed by hitting 32 winners and earning 79 first-serve points (57/72).

Wednesday’s closing match between No. 12 Fabio Fognini and Aussie Jordan Thompson provided even more dramaturgy.

Fognini secured the opening set in a tight tie-break and went on rushing through the second set to gain a 2-0 lead. But despite the dominance of the Italian, Thompson did not consider giving up without a decent fight, started to raise his level enormously, hitting more precise and going for risk-taking shots to eventually force a decisive fifth set in front of a loud cheering home crowd on Margaret Court Arena.

In the fifth set, Thompson avoided loss by saving four match points in two consecutive service game, forcing a match tie-break. However, after four hours and 5 minutes, Fognini still took the edge, winning 7-6(4), 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (10-4).

Top seeds in action

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic remained untroubled in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over wildcard-player Tatsuma Ito from Japan.

Djokovic hit a total of 31 winners compared to 17 unforced errors during the entire match. Furthermore, he struck 16 aces and did not allow Ito a single break point.

”My serve was working extremely well in the first round and second round. That’s something I worked on in the off-season,” Djokovic said. “That’s one of the priorities of the training sessions, trying to get that advantage of winning a lot of easy points on the first serve. It’s been paying off so far in the ATP Cup and two matches here.”

Djokovic will face Japanese player Yoshihito Nishioka, who stunned No. 30 seed Dan Evans 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, for a spot in the second week next.

Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer as well had a brilliant day at the office, easing past Serb Filip Krajinovic, who struggled physically, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 in just an hour and 30 minutes. It was an almost flawless performance by the “Maestro”, who hit 42 winners compared to just a little amount of 14 unforced errors.

Federer improved to 41-0 in the first two rounds at the Australian Open and will be trying to record his 100th victory in Melbourne against John Millman in the third round, who had no struggle with beating World No. 31 Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

“I practice with him [Millman] a lot. He is a super good guy and unbelievably tough opponent, there is not many guys fitter than him out there, and those are the guys I respect the most actually,” Federer said. “I hope it’s going to be a great match.”

Federer craves revenge against the Aussie, since Millman beat him in four sets in the round 16 at the US Open 2018.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas benefited from the withdrawal of his German opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber, who is dealing with an abdominal injury.

The 21-year-old Greek will next face former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, who eased past No. 36 Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to secure his place in the third round.