Norway’s Casper Ruud lost to Jenson Brooksby in his second round match in Melbourne on Thursday. Germany’s Olympic champion Alexander Zverev, who also lost to an American in four sets with Michael Mmoh, was also eliminated. Only Novak Djokovic kept his nerve.
Djokovic, who is aiming for his 10th triumph in Australia and his 22nd victory in a Grand Slam and thus a tie with record holder Nadal, had to beat the French qualifier Enzo Couacaud, however, take a deep breath. After quickly losing the first round, the number 191 in the world increased the pace and surprisingly took set two. However, Djokovic was neither impressed by a medical time-out to treat his injured thigh nor by Couacaud’s ambitious performance.
Even the disruptive quartet didn’t faze him
Even a colorfully dressed disruptive quartet in the stands, which were expelled from the hall after Djokovic urged, could no longer throw the Serbs off course. The number five in the world didn’t let Coucaud come close to winning a set and finally confidently fixed his third round duel with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, whom he called his “Balkan brother” in the interview afterwards. “A lot happened today,” said Djokovic, who is worried about the muscle problems he’s been struggling with for the past two weeks. “To be honest, it’s not good at all,” Djokovic replied in the Eurosport interview when asked how his thigh was doing: “I look from day to day. It felt better in the last match than today. It’s right to God to help me.”
Ruud, on the other hand, has to weep over a missed opportunity. With a final in Melbourne, the 24-year-old could have taken the lead in the world rankings for the first time. The current number three in the ranking is now denied this. After Nadal and Ruud left, there were originally four players who could have replaced Carlos Alcaraz on the tennis throne, only Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and Djokovic are left. If neither of these two players wins the tournament, the injured missing Spaniard Alcaraz remains number one.
Ruud fell behind from the start against Brooksby, who had already reached the semi-finals of the pre-season tournament in Auckland the previous week. The outsider already had three match points on his own serve in the third set. After three hours and 56 minutes he won 6:3.7:5.6:7(4),6:2. Ruud is with them Australia Open never advanced further than the round of 16. Last year’s finalist, the French, who was otherwise strong on hard court, has to win his first Grand Slam title Open and the US Open keep waiting.
After the second set, Ruud took a medical time-out. He was struggling with problems in the abdominal muscle area. “It’s something I’ve felt over and over again for the last two years,” explained the Norwegian. “It’s nothing serious but it keeps coming back so I have to take care of it.” Things went better for Ruud after the timeout, but in the end he had to acknowledge Brooksby’s strength.
“Casper is a fighter. I’m proud of my mental determination out there,” declared the winner. Brooksby, like Mackenzie McDonald, on whom the injured Nadal had failed the day before, comes from California. In the third round, the 22-year-old meets his Australian OpenDebut last year had to be postponed due to Covid disease, now to his US compatriot Tommy Paul.
The Russian Andrej Rublew, seeded number five, has to deal with the British Dan Evans in the third round after his opening success against Dominic Thiem. In his second match against the Finn Emil Ruusuvuori, Rublev lost a set in contrast to the game against the Austrian, but won 6:2,6:4,6:7(2),6:3. Rublew is the possible quarter-final opponent of record winner Djokovic, should both win all their games by then.
In the same half of the grid, USA’s Taylor Fritz, number eight, also lost out with 7:6(4),6:7(2),4:6,7:6(6),2:6 against Australian Alexei Popyrin and Zverev with 7: 6 (1), 4: 6, 3: 6, 2: 6 against Mmoh, who slipped into the main draw as a lucky loser. The German missed the third round for the first time since his debut in Melbourne in 2016. Seven and a half months after his serious foot injury in the FrenchOpen-The 25-year-old was far from his best form in the semifinals.
“It wasn’t enough from me. But it’s not like I have to blame myself,” said Zverev, who had already struggled in his five-set win against Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas. “I didn’t have any expectations. At least now I know where I am physically.” The two-time ATP Finals winner grabbed his hamstrings multiple times against Mmoh. That’s not enough: In the second sentence, a bird relieved itself on Zverev’s head.
Andy Murray then clinched a comeback victory late in the night. The 35-year-old Scot defeated the Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis after a marathon match 4:6,6:7(4),7:6(5),6:3,7:5. The game ended after 4 a.m. local time. Already in the first round Murray had shown his fighting qualities against Matteo Berrettini.
In the women’s game, number two seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur lost to Czech Marketa Vondrousova 1:6,7:5,1:6. The Wimbledon and US finalist Open didn’t look quite fit and was lost in the face of 50 unforced errors. The number 16, the Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who had knocked out Austria’s starter Julia Grabher at the start, was beaten by the Pole Magda Linette 6:3.3:6.4:6. The end also came for the number nine of the tournament, the Russian Veronika Kudermetowa. She lost to US qualifier Katie Volynets 4:6.6:2.2:6. Caroline Garcia (FRA-4) and Aryna Sabalenka (BLR-5) are on the other hand after two rounds without losing a set.
Defending champion Nadal out at Australian Open
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Nadal: “I’m frustrated”
Bitter end for Thiem in Melbourne
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