Trio of Americans Rooting For One Another

Jennifer Brady (photo: Morgan Hancock/Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, February 14, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Three American women – none of them named Serena Williams – highlight play in the upper half of the women’s singles draw at the Australian Open on Monday.

Unseeded Jessica Pegula starts the day off by facing World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine on Rod Laver Arena, followed by No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady against 28th seed Donna Vekic of Croatia. Finally, unseeded Shelby Rogers has the unenviable task of taking on World No. 1 and Aussie favorite Ashleigh Barty in the featured evening match.

The 64th-ranked Pegula, from Buffalo, N.Y.; Brady, a native of Harrisburg, Pa.; and Rogers, from Mount Pleasant, S.C., were born within three years of each other. At age 28, Rogers is the elder of the trio, Pegula is 26 and Brady is 25. Now, they’re among the 12 remaining women vying for this year’s Daphne Ackhurst Memorial Cup.

“Go, USA,” said the 60th-ranked Rogers following her Saturday victory over No. 23 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. “It’s so cool, seeing all these girls I grew up with and we’ve known each other for so many years, do really well and play some awesometennis and on the biggest stages. We’re all supporting each other. We have some fun chats going on. It’s really cool to see us all keep going.”

After beating qualifier Kaja Juvan to reach the second week, Brady said: “To be playing here in the fourth round, I’m super excited. I think it will be a really good match [against Vekic].”

When Pegula was told by a reporter that if she beats Svitolina and Brady prevails against Vekic, the two friends could face each other in the quarterfinals.

“I didn’t know that,” Pegula said on Saturday after her victory over Kristina Mladenovic. “That would be fun. I mean, I hope that’s what happens, to be honest. Yeah, I think we’re probably just focused on our next match.

“Jen is awesome. She’s so funny. You guys know, she’s hilarious. I’m always rooting for her to win. She’s a great person.

“Yeah, I mean, that would be ideal, honestly, for us. I think that would be really cool and good for American tennis. Hopefully, Shelby gets a win tonight, too.”

With No. 1 doubles seeds gone, focus on No. 2 seeds

With both the men’s and women’s No. 1 doubles seeds eliminated in the second round, the focus has shifted to the No. 2 seeds.

First, men’s No. 1 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both from Colombia, lost to the Kazakhstan duo Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev. Then, women’s No. 1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Barbora Strycova from Czech Republic, bowed to Darija Jurak of Croatia and Nina Stojanovic from Serbia.

Meanwhile, women’s No. 2 seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus are through to the third round as are the men’s No. 2 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia.

Mertens and Sabalenka moved into the second round with a win over Sweden’s Cornelia Lister and Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, then advanced to the third round by walkover against Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Jennifer Brady of the United States. On Sunday, they won their third-round match against Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva from Russia, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

Mektic and Pavic have a pair of straight-set wins over Mackenzie McDonald and Tommy Paul of the United States, and John Millman of Australia and Thiago Monteiro from Brazil.

Aslan Karatsev: Getting to know him

Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev is making his first major appearance at the Australian Open. He’s 27-years-old, currently ranked 114th and entered play in Melbourne with three ATP Tour-level wins. While he’s easily been overshadowed by his more famous Russian teammates Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, both ranked in the Top 10 in the world, he’s gone about his business and people are taking notice of the third member of the Russian trio.

On Friday, Karatsev achieved his first win against a Top 10 player when he beat No. 9 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, in the third round.

With his five-set, come-from-behind 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory Sunday over Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, he’s the first men’s qualifier to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals since Goran Ivanisevic in 1989. As play starts Monday, there are three Russian still in contention for the men’s singles title.

Karatsev career prize money entering the Australian Open stood at $618,354. In the past week, he’s earned $407,000 by advancing to the quarterfinals.

After his triumph over Auger-Alisssime, Karatsev was asked what he was telling himself when he was two sets to love down. He said: “Yeah, it was a big moment. I didn’t feel my game from the beginning. It was tough to really serve, and he also broke me down from the beginning. So, already I was down in the set, and I just found the rhythm in the third set. I said, ‘Okay, I would keep playing and go a bit far to the return and make him play more balls and yeah.’ I think that was the right strategy.”

And what did it feel like when the match was finally over?

“I mean, the match is long,” he told reporters during his post-match press conference. “You play best of five, so it looks like it’s over, yeah. But I said, I’ll keep playing every ball and focusing on the next ball. …

“Amazing. Amazing. It was a big win from 2-0 down and emotionally it was tough. Yeah, it’s a good feeling.”

Next, Karatsev will face No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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