Australian Open: Men’s Day 4 review – Gulbis and Verdasco remain alive in Aus Open

A COUPLE of top 10 picks and an Aussie up-and-comer are the only unseeded players remaining in the top half of the draw come Round 3 after only one seed fell in that half of the second round.

It was business as usual in the top eighth of the men’s draw with all four seeds moving through to the third round. World number one, Rafael Nadal won through in straight sets with a 6-3 7-6 6-1 triumph over Argentinian, Federico Delbonis. The Spanish star had his work cut out for him in the second set, and it was not his cleanest performance with only three more winners than unforced errors (33-27) but he was his usual self when it came to consistency, winning 85 per cent of his first and 61 per cent of his second serve points. Delbonis did the best he could, working his way to the net and hitting 22 winners, but also hit 43 unforced errors and could not break through the Nadal serve in the match.

It sets up an all-Spanish third round clash after 27th seed Pablo Carrero Busta advanced following a four-set win over German qualifier, Peter Gojowczyk. The Spaniard looked home from early on, winning the first two sets comfortably, before the qualifier surprised with a 6-1 win in the third set. Carreno Busta picked up the bid again and eventually got the job done in a tight fourth set, winning 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-4, having broken in the seventh game of that set. The 27th seed won 72 and 64 per cent of his first and second serves respectively, while having an amazing ratio of 44 winners – including six off the return – to 14 unforced errors. Gojowczyk also took his chances with his shots, but ran at a 50 per cent ratio with 42 winners and unforced errors.

In arguably the match of the second round – which is a full field of entries – 16th seed Russian, Karen Khachanov downed Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in five sets with the result eventually coming down to 10-8 in the super tiebreak. Khachanov recorded a 6-2 2-6 6-4 3-6 7-6 victory in a tournament record thus far of four hours and 34 minutes out on Court 3. A massive 362 points were played in the match and in a statement of just how even the combatants were – each player won 176 points apiece. Khachanov enjoyed 12 more aces in the end (62-50) but also hit 12 more unforced errors (71-59). In another quirk, they both broke 10 times during the match from 24 opportunities, while Ymer was the stronger of the two at the net with a 67 per cent effectiveness compared to 56 per cent. The clash could be the start of a terrific rivalry with 21-year-old Ymer and 23-year-old Khachanov likely to be on tour for some time.

One person who would have particularly enjoyed the tightness of the match was Australian Nick Kyrgios, with the 23rd seed now Khachanov’s opponent in the Round of 32. Kyrgios survived a minor challenge from Frenchman Gilles Simon in the third set, to post a four-set win 6-2 6-4 4-6 7-5 in two hours and 49 minutes. It took some time, but Kyrgios broke in the eleventh game of the fourth set then served his way to victory with three aces including on match point. It was one of 28 for the match as the Aussie firebrand enjoyed a night out, hitting 67 winners and recording a comfortable 78 per cent first serve points won with 69 per cent first serve efficiency. He also broke five times to two, and won 60 per cent of points at the net to move through to the next round against the Russian.

[1] R. Nadal (ESP) defeated F. Delbonis (ARG) 6-3 7-6 6-1
[27] P. Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [Q] P. Gojowczyk (GER) 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-4
[23] N. Kyrgios (AUS) defeated G. Simon (FRA) 6-2 6-4 4-6 7-5
[16] K. Khachanov (RUS) defeated M. Ymer (SWE) 6-2 2-6 6-4 3-6 7-6

Tenth seed Frenchman Gael Monfils was made to work for his third round spot, coming from a set down and a tight second tiebreaker to post a four-set win over Croatian Ivo Karlovic. Monfils posted a 4-6 7-6 6-4 7-5 win in two and a half hours, weathering the 17 aces and 61 winners from his opponent. Karlovic was really loose with his shots early, racking up 15 unforced errors in the first seven games before finishing the match with 73. Monfils only hit the 34 winners but had a low 14 unforced error count.

The current world number 10 now takes on a former world number 10 in Latvian qualifier, Ernests Gulbis who defeated Aljaz Bedene in straight sets, 7-5 6-3 6-2. Gulbis served up 13 aces and hit 37 winners in the match, able to counter punch against the Slovenian who could only manage the 14 winners yet had seven more unforced errors (43-36). Gulbis showed he can be a danger to any opponent and while Monfils will deservedly be favourite in the Round of 32 clash, the Frenchman will not be taking him lightly.

In what was almost the biggest upset of the tournament, fifth seed Austrian Dominic Thiem managed to survive a two sets to one deficit against Australian wildcard Alex Bolt, to win in five sets. Thiem now takes on 29th seed, Taylor Fritz in the Round of 32. The American came back from two sets to one down and only just got through a third set tiebreaker to run away with a strong final two sets over South African veteran, Kevin Anderson. It was the battle of the big hitters with a combined 41 aces and 110 winners, though Fritz was impressive with only 27 unforced errors to Anderson’s 54. The South African’s net play troubled the up-and-comer at some points, but he also became predictable at times, winning just the 63 per cent by the match’s end.

[10] G. Monfils (FRA) defeated I. Karlovic (CRO) 4-6 7-6 6-4 7-5
[Q] E. Gulbis (LAT) defeated A. Bedene (SLO) 7-5 6-3 6-2
[29] T. Fritz (USA) defeated K. Anderson (RSA) 4-6 6-7 7-6 6-2 6-2
[5] D. Thiem (AUT) defeated [WC] A. Bolt (AUS) 6-2 5-7 6-7 6-1 6-2

It was a lot easier for the other top five seed in the mid-part of the day’s proceedings, with world number four Daniil Medvedev moving through to the next stage following a 7-5 6-1 6-3 victory over Spanish qualifier, Pedro Martinez. The Spaniard put up a fight in the first set, but the young Russian took off after that, stamping his authority on the match to win the last two sets fairly comfortably. He served 19 aces and hit 40 winners, only dropping nine points on his first serve to make life difficult for the Spaniard. He won 47 per cent of his receiving points and broke Martinez six times, while only being broken once himself.

Confronting Medvedev in the third round is Australian Alexei Popyrin who joins Kyrgios and John Millman as the only male Aussies through to the third round. He defeated Spain’s Jaume Munar in straight sets, 6-2 7-6 6-2 fighting through a tight second set tiebreaker to run away with the contest in the third set. He won 75 per cent of his first serve points and slammed home 51 winners in an impressive display, but could also improve his serving with six double faults. Munar did not have the weapons required to topple the hard-hitting Australian, and managed just the 15 winners for the game and failed to break him once throughout the contest.

Speaking of hard-hitting, John Isner just blew his opponent off the court with the big serving American winning against Chilean qualifier, Alejandro Tabilo in just an hour and 24 minutes, 6-4 6-3 6-3. Tabilo had no answers for the American whose form at the Open is outstanding, pounding out another 32 aces and 58 winners, but just as impressively only recording 21 unforced errors. He broke four times, which will nearly always get him the win based on the fact he is so hard to break, even by the top few players. Just for good measure he averaged a lazy 202 kmh for a first serve and 185 kmh for a second serve – faster than most players average first serves.

Isner sets up a third round meeting with fellow power hitter, Stan Wawrinka after the 15th seed won in a thrilling five sets. Dropping the first set to Italy’s Andreas Seppi, Wawrinka picked up to win the next two and seemed to be on course for a four-set win. Seppi had other ideas and broke in the fourth seed to level the scores at two sets apiece, before Wawrinka eventually got home 4-6 7-5 6-3 3-6 6-4. The fifth seed was see-sawing with Seppi breaking to go 4-3 up, before Wawrinka charged home to win the last three games, breaking twice. In the match, Wawrinka served 19 aces and hit 54 winners, with a strong 80 per cent success rate on his first serve. Both players were comfortable at the net, with Seppi making more of his chances with five breaks from five opportunities for the match, while Wawrinka had six from 16.

[4] D. Medvedev (RUS) defeated [Q] P. Martinez (ESP) 7-5 6-1 6-3
A. Popyrin (AUS) defeated J. Munar (ESP) 6-2 7-6 6-2
[19] J. Isner (USA) defeated [Q] A. Tabilo (CHI) 6-4 6-3 6-3
[15] S. Wawrinka (SUI) defeated A. Seppi (ITA) 4-6 7-5 6-3 3-6 6-4

The unbeaten man in 2020 continued his streak in the second round of the Australian Open as 17th seed Andrey Rublev had no problems getting past Japan’s Yuichi Sugita in straight sets. Barring a third set tiebreaker which he won 7-5, Rublev got to the lead fairly comfortably and posted a 6-2 6-4 7-6 victory. He served up 20 aces and 51 winners in the match, only dropping a remarkable four points on his first serve and 15 for the entire match on-serve. He broke four times while holding his serve every game in a comprehensive win over Sugita.

It sets up a huge third round clash with 11th seed Belgian, David Goffin who defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert in an epic five-set clash. Goffin looked home and hosed early in the match winning the first two sets before Herbert hit back with identical scorelines in the third and fourth. Despite the momentum with his opponent, Goffin closed out the match in the fifth to win 6-1 6-4 4-6 1-6 6-3. The match took more than three hours and while Goffin was shaky on-serve with 12 double faults, was dominant at the net with a 76 per cent success rate.

Seventh seed Alexander Zverev had a few more troubles getting through to the third round, still winning in straight sets but Belarusian, Egor Gerasimov made life difficult for him. The young German eventually took the chocolates with a 7-6 6-4 7-5 win, hitting 39 winners and only dropping 15 points on-serve for the entire match. Gerasimov was almost as impressive, and he took his chances breaking once, but the top 10 player broke three times to be the difference in the end.

Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco continued his great form with a come-from-behind victory over Georgian, Nikoloz Basilashvili. The 36-year-old posted a 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-4 win in the tightest of circumstances, booking a spot in the Round of 32. He was the cleaner of the duo, hitting 41 winners and 51 unforced errors showing room for improvement, but won 77 per cent of his first serve points and an impressive 55 per cent of his second serve points. He will now test himself against Zverev who is 14 years his junior.

[11] D. Goffin (BEL) defeated P. Herbert (FRA) 6-1 6-4 4-6 1-6 6-3
[17] A. Rublev (RUS) defeated Y. Sugita (JPN) 6-2 6-3 7-6
F. Verdasco (ESP) defeated [26] N. Basilashvili (GEO) 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-4
[7] A. Zverev (GER) defeated E. Gerasimov (BLR) 7-6 6-4 7-5

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