With No Djokovic, Zverev Stepping Up to Star At Night

Alexander Zverev (photo: Scott Barbour / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 19, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The tennis stars come out at night at the Australian Open, and for the second time in three days, World No. 3 Alexander Zverev is featured in the final match of the day on Rod Laver Arena. With No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic banished from this year’s first major, expect to see Zverev more in prime time.

On Wednesday evening, the No. 3 seed from Germany takes on 89th-ranked John Millman of Australia on the biggest show court at Melbourne Park. Looking back, he was a late fill-in after Djokovic was withdrawn from the Australian Open after his visa was cancelled for not being vaccinated. The World No. 1 was originally scheduled to play fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the last match Monday on Rod Laver. Instead, Zverev’s first-round contest against Daniel Altmaier of Germany was shifted from a different court and the German No. 1 stepped up and won 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (1).

In facing Millman for the third time in his career and second time in a major, Zverev is facing an Australian player at the “Happy Slam” for the second time after previously defeating Alex Bolt in the third round at Melbourne Park in 2019. Of interest, Zverev is bidding to maintain a perfect record against players at their home Grand Slams. He’s already won all of his matches against Americans at the US Open and Frenchmen at Roland-Garros. (He’s never faced any British players at Wimbledon.)

Millman ended a five-match Grand Slam losing streak in the first round on Monday when he beat 40-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, to advance. Now, he’s aiming to reach the third round in Melbourne for the third time in his career. However, Zverev has never lost an Australian Open match to a player ranked as low as the No. 89 Millman.

Looking back, Zverev admitted that “not much went to plan” when he faced Altmaier “to be honest, except that I won.

“But that is how it is sometimes. It is the first round of a very long tournament and you are now always going to play your best tennis.. It was a good match for me to get into the tournament and hopefully the next round will be better.”

Barty, Badosa, Azarenka breeze into third round

World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty, No. 8 seed Paula Badosa and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka all won their respective second-round matches easily on Wednesday afternoon to move into the third round at the Australian Open.

Barty put on a dominant performance against 142nd-ranked Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti and won 6-1, 6-1 in 52 minutes, to move into the third round against 30th seed Camila Giorgi of Italy, who defeated No. 47 Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 7-6 (2).

The 25-year-old native of Ipswich dominated her opponent, hitting eight aces and 21 winners. Barty faced no break points and converted five of six opportunities against Bronzetti to improve to 6-0 following her title win in Adelaide two weeks ago.

The World No. 6 Badosa of Spain coasted past 111th-ranked Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan, 6-0, 6-3, to open up play on Rod Laver Arena, winning in an hour and 11 minutes. She hit five aces and won 80 percent (16 of 20) of her first-serve points while facing no break points. The victory was Badosa’s seventh straight going back to her title run at the Sydney Tennis Classic last week.

Next, Badosa will face 66th-ranked Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk in the third round. Kostyk upset No. 32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Meanwhile, No. 24 seed Azarenka from Belarus needed just 73 minutes to beat No. 34 Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, 6-1, 6-2, and reach the third round in Melbourne for the 11th time. She will face No. 15 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who advanced over No. 107 Harmony Tan of France by retirement after leading 6-3, 5-7, 5-1.

Italy’s Sonego first into men’s third round

No. 25 seed Lorenzo Sonego defeated 96th-ranked Oscar Otte of Germany, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, Wednesday after on Court 3 to be the first to advance to the men’s third round. The 27th-ranked Sonego struck seven aces and hit 42 winners to 39 unforced errors against Otte during their two-hour and 32-minute match.

Going the distance: Five-set feelings

Through the first two days of this year’s Australian Open, there were 13 five-set matches during the first round (five on Monday and eight on Tuesday).

The longest of the five-setters came on Monday between No. 18 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia and Jaume Munar of Spain. It lasted four hours and 52 minutes and was won by Karatsev 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.

Iga Swiatek: More than just play tennis

Things you learn from player press conferences and on-court interviews: In the case of Iga Swiatek, the No. 7 seed from Poland and 2020 French Open champion, she’s a fan of heavy metal group AC/DC and English rock band Florence & the Machine. One of her favorite tunes? AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

All in the Commonwealth: Good day for British tennis

It was a good day to be a British tennis player on Tuesday. During Day 2 of the Australian Open, on the men’s side both Andy Murray and Dan Evans were victorious, while on the women’s side, both Emma Raducanu and Heather Watson won their first-round matches.

After her Australian Open main draw debut on Margaret Court Arena, won by the 17th-seeded Raducanu 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 over Sloane Stephens in a battle of present and past US Open champions, the 19-year-old British teen said: “I defnitely wanted to go out there and start playing aggressively and start putting my game on the court. I felt that I was actually just really enjoying my time here, especially like going out to practice earlier. I had quite a few people watching. So, I was really enjoying it, and I think the crowd that stayed pretty late, we were having a good time. I was feeding off that, for sure.”

Point – Counterpoint with ESPN’s John McEnroe and Chris Evert

ESPN, which is the primary broadcast-rights holder for the Australian Open in the United States, has a pretty deep bench of pundits, including Hall of Famers John McEnroe and Chris Evert.

During a pause in the first-day action on Monday (where it was still Sunday evening in the U.S.), the subject of Novak Djokovic’s deportation was discussed by McEnroe and Evert.

McEnroe, never one to shy away from expressing his opinion said: “I’ve been part of some chaotic scenes I was responsible for some of them – not all of them. The only time I got defaulted was at the Australian Open. But what’s gone on the last 12 days tops everything – that is total and utter chaos, an absolute joke, what has gone on. It’s total B.S. Djokovic, who is possibly the greatest ever to play, ending up a punchline on ‘Saturday Night Live’ is not the way you want to see the sport go.”

Meanwhile, Evert, a voice of calm and reason, rebutted McEnroe. She reflected: “At the end of the day nobody is above the law, especially when it applies to the health and safety of a country. So, I think it was the right decision. … It’s borderline criminal when you have COVID and knowingly expose yourself to somebody. That’s not good.”

Wednesday’s Australian Open results

Thursday’s Australian Open order of play

Now it can be told

What they’re writing

Matthew Futterman of The New York Times: Naomi Osaka Returns, Ready or Not

What they’re sharing on social media

Liam Broady / Not the result I wanted but …


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Liam Broady (@liambroady)

Elina Svitolina / Her Team Nike AO apparel in a Tik-Tok


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Elina Monfils (@elisvitolina)

By the numbers

• Women’s World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia is spending her 111th and 112th weeks at No. 1 during the Australian Open fortnight.

• Alexander Zverev is one of six former junior Australian Open singles champions in this year’s men’s draw. The others: Lorenzo Musetti (2019), Sebastian Korda (2018), Roman Safiullin (2015), Nick Kyrgios (2013) and Gaël Monfils (2004). Zverev defeated Stefan Kozlov to win the boys’ singles title 2014. Stefan Edberg is the only player to have won both the Australian Open boys’ singles and men’s singles titles in the Open Era (since 1968).

• Spain’s Paula Badosa owns a 50-18 win-loss record since the start of the 2021 season. During that time, her ranking has improved from No. 70 to a career-high sixth.

• Reigning Australian Open women’s champion Naomi Osaka is defending 2,000 of her 2,696 ranking point s over the coming fortnight.

“Quotable …”

Daniil Medvedev on Nick Kyrgios

Paula Badosa comparing playing on RLA today versus 2020