Australian Open: Men’s Day 2 review – Gulbis winds back clock with first round upset

ON Day 2 of the 2020 Australian Open, a second top 20 Canadian seed fell – this time to a qualifier – while a number of others had to fight hard in order to survive against stiff opposition.

In the top eighth of the draw, world number one Rafael Nadal started off his Australian Open campaign without a hiccup, winning 6-2 6-3 6-0 against Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien. Nadal barely left second gear as he hit 38 winners and won 83 per cent of his net points, breaking eight times to two during the contest. He only hit the 21 unforced errors across the three sets and had a nice tune-up for the later rounds, with his next direct opponent being Argentinian, Federico Delbonis.

Delbonis toppled Portugal’s Joao Sousa in straight sets, winning 6-3 6-4 7-6 in two hours and 19 minutes. In that time, the Argentinian served up 11 aces and 46 winners with only four double faults and 31 unforced errors, winning all the key statistical categories against his opponent. He broke twice during the contest which was enough to net him the first two sets, avoiding being broken himself then winning the third set tiebreaker, 7-3 to book a spot in the second round.

On track for a third round clash with his top countryman, Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta moved through to the Round of 64 after downing lucky loser, Jozef Kovalik. The Slovenian won the second set against the 27th seed, but ultimately Carreno Busta was the cleaner player, triumphing 6-4 3-6 6-1 7-6 in two hours and 37 minutes. The Spaniard hit 41 winners and only 27 unforced errors, while controlling his first serve with a winning percentage of 87 per cent.

Peter Gojowczyk won the battle of the qualifiers, with the German downing his American counterpart, Chris Eubanks 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 to set up a clash with Carreno Busta in the second round. Gojowczyk hit 34 winners with 27 unforced errors, breaking four times and controlling with his serve, recording 74 and 64 winning percentages on his first and second serve respectively. Eubanks was solid with 40 winners of his own and 22 aces, but he could not do enough to impact and faded in the final set.

Also through to the next round was 16th seed, Karen Khachanov who posted a four-set win over Spanish qualifier, Mario Vilella Martinez. The Spaniard surprised the top 20 player by winning the first set, but Khachanov got back on top after that, saluting 4-6 6-4 7-6 6-3 to book a spot in the second round. Khachanov was too strong across all areas, smashing home 59 winners and 10 aces as his serving percentages of 81 and 71 for first and second serve points won was elite. He only broke twice, but his serve was strong enough to hold sway and not be broken after the first set.

Swedish young gun, Mikael Ymer also moved through to the next round after a straight sets win over Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan. Ymer won 6-4 6-1 6-2 to set up a chance against the 16th seed, with the 21-year-old winning every statistical category. He was sensible with 28 winners and 22 unforced errors, also dominant on serve (77 per cent of his first serve points off 75 per cent efficiency) and at the net (79 per cent success rate). He was able to also dig deep on Uchiyama’s serve to win 46 per cent of his receiving points.

Frenchman Gilles Simon continued his winning record against Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas with a swift 6-1 6-3 6-3 victory on Court 3. Simon took just under two hours, but never really looked troubled winning 81 per cent of his first serve points, while collecting almost half of his opponents serve points. He struggled a bit with efficiency just putting 55 per cent of his first serves in, but hit 26 winners for only 16 unforced errors, and won nine of the 10 approach shots. He now takes on Australian Nick Kyrgios who toppled Italian Lorenzi Sonego, 6-2 7-6 7-6 in two hours and 13 minutes of play.

[1] R. Nadal (ESP) defeated H. Dellien (BOL) 6-2 6-3 6-0
F. Delbonis (ARG) defeated J. Sousa (POR) 6-3 6-4 7-6
[Q] P. Gojowczyk (GER) defeated [Q] C. Eubanks (USA) 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-0
[27] P. Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [LL] J. Kovalik (SLO) 6-4 3-6 6-1 7-6
[23] N. Kyrgios (AUS) defeated L. Sonego (ITA) 6-2 7-6 7-6
G. Simon (FRA) defeated P. Cuevas (URG) 6-1 6-3 6-3
M. Ymer (SWE) defeated Y. Uchiyama (JPN) 6-4 6-1 6-2
[16] K. Khachanov (RUS) defeated [Q] M. Vilella Martinez (ESP) 4-6 6-4 7-6 6-3

Ernests Gulbis produced the upset of the Australian Open first round with the Latvian qualifier downing 20th seed, Felix Auger-Aliassime. In a bad couple of days for Canada, Auger-Aliassime joined 13th seed and countryman, Denis Shapovalov in exiting the tournament, after Gulbis triumphed 7-5 4-6 7-6 6-4 in three and a half hours. Gulbis hit 41 winners to 35 and played an impressive service style with 79 per cent success rate off his first serve, and 60 per cent off his second. He broke three times to the Canadian teenager’s twice, and the 19-year-old struggled to combat the Latvian throughout the contest though it was a matter of a few points here and there that were the difference.

Gulbis now faces Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene who came from behind to defeat Australia’s James Duckworth in five sets. After winning the first set 6-4, Bedene conceded the next two in tiebreakers to the Aussie, before picking up the slack again to secure a Round 2 spot courtesy of a 6-4 6-7 6-7 6-2 6-4 victory. His first and second serve points winning percentages of 87 and 62 were superb, as he broke four times while not being broken himself. Also hitting 72 winners, and only 47 unforced errors, Bedene showed he could be a handful for anyone. Granted though, Duckworth was not as clinical as he could have been with just 51 winners and 71 unforced errors in the contest.

Tenth seed, Gael Monfils breezed past Yen-Hsun Lu in straight sets, downing the world number 532nd winning 6-1 6-4 6-2. While Lu was strong at the net, Monfils was too strong on serve, producing six aces and a 79 per cent winning ratio on his first serve, while attacking Luc’s second serve with a 61 per cent record. Monfils will need be playing a slightly different player to the slower serving Lu in Round 2, after 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic booked a spot in the match.

Karlovic averaged 207kmh first serves and just a casual 195kmh second serves on his way to metaphorically blowing Canadian Vasek Pospisil off the court in straight sets. Despite Pospisil holding a positive head-to-head record against the Croatian, he was no match for Karlovic who powered his way to victory with 13 aces and an 89 per cent first serve winning percentage. Karlovic also broke twice while not being broken himself, and while Pospisil was able to win 83 per cent of his first serve points and hit 49 winners, he could not crack into his opponents’ serve, winning just 15 of a possible receiving 94 points.

Fifth seed, Dominic Theim also moved on in the tournament, overcoming Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino who is far from an easy first round matchup. The Austrian triumphed 6-4 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 21 minutes, breaking five times and winning 42 per cent of his receiving points. He also won 77 per cent of his first serve points and produced 36 winners, though was not as clean as he could have been with 34 unforced errors as well. He now has the task of breaking Australian hearts when he takes on wildcard Alex Bolt in the Round of 64.

World number 140, Bolt upset Albert Ramos-Vinolas, a player who is ranked 98 places higher on the ATP rankings, in five tight sets 7-6 1-6 6-7 6-1 6-4. Despite being down two sets to one, Bolt never gave in to turn the match around and run out winning it in just under three and a half hours. Bolt can be erratic with his play producing 69 unforced errors, but also hit 55 winners while serving up 11 aces and winning 67 per cent of his points at the net. His serve-volleys troubled the Spaniard who still broke five times, but could not get it done despite his impressive second set and tiebreak-winning third set.

Also having to come back from two sets to one down in order to win, South African veteran Kevin Anderson posted a five-set win over Belarusian qualifier, Ilya Ivashka. Anderson won the first set but trailed after three, before finally stepping up to win 6-4 2-6 4-6 6-4 7-6, finishing off his younger opponent 10-8 in the super tiebreaker. The world number 122 took almost four hours to get across the line, but served up 16 aces and 48 winners as he challenged Ivashka with his net approaches, winning 71 per cent of the time he did. He was a bit rushed with 67 unforced errors, but his power and smarts got him over the line and into the second round.

Finishing off the eighth of the draw, 29th seed Taylor Fritz booked a spot in the Round of 64 with a straight sets win over Dutch qualifier, Tallon Griekspoor. Fritz won 6-3 6-3 6-3 to book a date with Anderson in the next round, serving 17 aces and only losing a remarkable one point on his first serve. He hit 39 winners and overpower Griekspoor in a stunning performance which showed why he could a dark horse for the tournament. Just as impressive as his power and serving prowess, Fritz hit just 14 unforced errors for the match, and won 86 per cent of his net points.

[10] G. Monfils (FRA) defeated Y. Lu (TAI) 6-1 6-4 6-2
I. Karlovic (CRO) defeated V. Pospisil (CAN) 7-6 6-4 7-5
A. Bedene (SLO) defeated J. Duckworth (AUS) 6-4 6-7 6-7 6-2 6-4
[Q] E. Gulbis (LAT) defeated [20] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 7-5 4-6 7-6 6-4
[29] T. Fritz (USA) defeated [Q] T. Griekspoor (NED) 6-3 6-3 6-3
K. Anderson (RSA) defeated [Q] I. Ivashka (BLR) 6-2 2-6 4-6 6-4 7-6
[WC] A. Bolt (AUS) defeated A. Ramos-Vinolas (AUS) 7-6 1-6 6-7 6-1 6-4
[5] D. Thiem (AUT) defeated A. Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 7-5 6-2

One of the tournament favourites has moved through to the second round despite a challenge from his American opponent. Fourth seed Russian, Daniil Medvedev stepped up after being a set-all to defeat Frances Tiafoe, 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2 in an exciting two and a half hour contest. Medvedev’s serve was not always perfect with 13 aces but a huge 12 double faults for just 53 per cent accuracy on the first serve. He did enough to win overall, mainly breaking nine times to five off the back of a 44 per cent success rate when receiving. He also hit 42 winners for the match and was strong without being outstanding to move through to Round 2 where he actually faces a lower ranked opponent than top 50 Tiafoe.

That opponent is Spanish qualifier, Pedro Martinez who defeated Dominik Koepfer of Germany to keep his Australian Open dream alive. Martinez won 6-3 6-4 7-5 to set up a clash with Medvedev in the Round of 64 after an impressive showing of 41 winners and only 25 unforced errors in his Round 1 contest. He also won 80 per cent of points when approaching the net which will be crucial against the world number four, and had a consistent serve throughout the match despite only producing one ace.

An injury retirement has opened up that eighth of the draw, with 28th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bowing out to Australian Alexei Popyrin, who showed concern for a player he considered his hero, post-match. Popyrin won 6-7 6-2 6-1 before Tsonga called time, having had to have painkillers to get through the match to that point. Ranked 96th in the world, Popyrin was strong in his own right during the match with a low 16 unforced errors and 34 winners, while keeping his first and second serve points won above 75 per cent.

The Australian takes on Spain’s Jaume Munar who bundled out French wildcard, Hugo Gaston in four sets. Sitting at a set apiece, Munar stepped it up a notch in the third and fourth sets to run out a 7-5 5-7 6-0 6-3 winner. It took three and a half hours, but Munar had 44 winners to 37 unforced errors, compared to his opponent with 56 and 73 respectively. He also won 48 per cent of his receiving points and broke nine times to five to guarantee he moved at least one round further in the tournament.

In a surprise to no one, American 19th seed John Isner had a tournament-high four tiebreakers in his win over Brazilian, Thiago Monteiro. The biggest server on the ATP Tour is virtually unbreakable when on song, and it contributes to epic clashes. In three hours and 27 minutes, Isner got up 6-7 7-6 7-6 7-6, with a casual 46 aces and 89 winners. Credit has to go to Monteiro for forcing tiebreakers with those kinds of numbers, though the Brazilian produced 18 aces and 68 winners himself in one of the best games of the round. Both had elite first serve points won percentages, while they were also quite dominant at the net. Now the 34-year-old, 208cm American progresses through to take on Chilean qualifier, Alejandro Tabilo.

In an equally long clash with fellow qualifier, Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan, Tabilo won 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4 to book a spot in the Round of 64. Tabilo reached 50 winners for the game and won 79 per cent of his net points, while breaking five times to three, including a crucial one in the deciding set. His second serve winning percentage of 62 was impressive, while Galan was good enough to win with a 72 per cent first serve winning percentage, but could not quite get it done with the match on the line in the final set.

Someone who could get it done despite a challenge from his opponent was 15th seed Stan Wawrinka who defeated Damir Dzumhur as one of our matches of the day yesterday. He now takes on Italy’s Andreas Seppi who won in straight sets over Serbian, Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 6-4 7-6. The Italian served up 10 aces in two hours and hit 48 winners for only 30 unforced errors, broken just once while returning the favour to the Serbian three times. Seppi has not been in super form of late, but he has made it through to a Round of 64 where Wawrinka will be a massive challenge for the 35-year-old veteran.

[4] D. Medvedev (RUS) defeated F. Tiafoe (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2
[Q] P. Martinez (ESP) defeated D. Koepfer (GER) 6-3 6-4 7-5
J. Munar (ESP) defeated [WC] H. Gaston (FRA) 7-5 5-7 6-0 6-3
A. Popyrin (AUS) defeated [28] J. Tsonga (FRA) 6-7 6-2 6-1 RETIRED
[19] J. Isner (USA) defeated T. Monteiro (BRA) 6-7 7-6 7-6 7-6
[Q] A. Tabilo (CHI) defeated [Q] D. Galan (COL) 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4
A. Seppi (ITA) defeated M. Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-4 6-4 7-6
[15] S. Wawrinka (SUI) defeated D. Dzumhur (BIH) 7-5 6-7 6-4 6-4

There was just the one surprise in the bottom eighth of the men’s singles top half of the draw with 98th ranked Egor Gerasimov downing top 50 Norwegian prospect, Casper Ruud in five sets. Gerasimov looked to be on top early taking the first two sets 6-3 7-6, before Ruud bounced back with his own two sets, 6-1 6-4 to level the scores at two sets apiece. In fitting circumstances, the three and a half hour battle came down to a super tiebreak where the Belarusian got up 10-6 for a 6-3 7-6 1-6 4-6 7-6 triumph out on Court 13. Gerasimov serve 21 aces to 13 and hit 74 winners in a powerful display as neither player wanted to give in, but in the end it was the Belarusian who emerged victorious to set up a Round 2 match with seventh seed, Alexander Zverev.

It was a lot smoother for Zverev in a straight sets win over Italian, Marco Cecchinato, though it was far from easy with the tight three-set victory taking two hours and 23 minutes. Zverev’s serve was back on in the game after a shaky ATP Cup, winning 72 per cent off his first serve points off 84 per cent first serve in. He produced eight aces and hit 35 winners to 28, whilst keeping his unforced errors down to a low 28. The German also broke five times to three during the match and claimed 43 per cent of his receiving points to move through to the next round.

Eleventh seed David Goffin also moved through to the Round of 64 with a straight sets triumph of France’s Jeremy Chardy. Goffin won 6-4 6-3 6-1 with the Belgian winning 83 per cent of his first serve points, while breaking six times to one in a fairly comprehensive win. He only hit the 20 winners showing an area of improvement for the future, but did enough throughout the one hour, 48 minute match to book a date with Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round.

Herbert came from two sets to one down to post a tight win over Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie on Court 15. The match lasted almost four hours as Herbert hit 58 winners and produced 14 aces with plenty of net action throughout. The pair played a total of 100 points that involved one approaching the net, with Norrie marginally higher at 67 to 63 per cent success rate. Herbert will be keen to lower his unforced error count which reached 76, but is building nicely for the tough clash against the world number 11.

In a rather odd match that had the result expected but with a mid-match twist, Russian Alexander Rublev continued his unbeaten 2020 with a win over Australian wildcard, Chris O’Connell. The Round 1 match was closer than many anticipated with the world number 115 returning from injury against the top 20 player, but held up his own, even winning a set to love during Rublev’s 6-3 0-6 6-4 7-6 win. In that second set, the Australian restricted Rublev to four winners and seven unforced errors, as well as just 10 total points won, while hitting 13 winners himself and breaking three times. The class of Rublev shown through overall despite hitting less winners (41-52), also having a manageable 27 unforced errors as he won 75 per cent of his first serve points, and more importantly, 57 per cent of his second serve points. Both players were solid at the net, but the Russian stepped up when it counted and got the job done in a fourth set tiebreak.

Rublev now moves on and faces Japan’s Yuichi Sugita who smashed Frenchman, Elliot Benchetrit. The French qualifier has now best been known for his ‘banana stunt’ in qualifying where he handed a ball girl a banana to unpeel for him before being scolded by the chair umpire. It might have been his only moment of fame (or infamy) for the whole tournament as he just won five games in Sugita’s 6-2 6-0 6-3 easy win. The Japanese world number 91 won 85 per cent of his first serve points compared to Benchetrit’s 39 per cent, and had only eight unforced errors for 24 winners in an ultra-economical match. He broke six times in the process and moved through to take on Rublev.

It was another tough battle out on Court 12 where Georgian, Nikoloz Basilashvili just escaped from South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon. The 26th seed led two sets to one at one stage, but was forced into a deciding set before getting up 6-7 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 in just under four hours of matchplay. Basilashvili served 22 aces and hit 61 winners, too strong on his first serve with a winning ratio of 73 per cent, as well as breaking seven times to five. His second serve is an area of improvement with Kwon recording 12 return winners from a game-high 66 total winners.

Fernando Verdasco continues to defy age and posted a 7-5 6-2 6-1 victory over lucky loser, Evgeny Donskoy. The 36-year-old Spaniard enjoyed a smooth run after a tight first set with the Russian, hardly faltering on serve. Verdasco recorded a 75 per cent first serve percentage, then won 85 per cent of those serves, while claiming two thirds of his second serve. All up, he lost just 14 points and was not broken once, but broke his opponent five times, four of which came in the last two sets. Not known for being a huge hitter, the counter puncher produced 21 winners and 14 unforced errors compared to Donkoy’s 20 and 35 respectively. He now faces Basilashvili in the second round.

[11] D. Goffin (BEL) defeated J. Chardy (FRA) 6-4 6-3 6-1
P. Herbert (FRA) defeated C. Norrie (GBR) 7-5 3-6 3-6 7-5 6-4
Y. Sugita (JPN) defeated [Q] E. Benchetrit (FRA) 6-2 6-0 6-3
[17] A. Rublev (RUS) defeated [WC] C. O’Connell (AUS) 6-3 0-6 6-4 7-6
[26] N. Basilashvili (GEO) defeated S. Kwon (KOR) 6-7 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3
F. Verdasco (ESP) defeated [LL] E. Donskoy (RUS) 7-5 6-2 6-1
E. Gerasimov (BLR) defeated C. Ruud (NOR) 6-3 7-6 1-6 4-6 7-6
[7] A. Zverev (GER) defeated M. Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 7-6 6-3

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