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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Australian Open: Ruud and Zverev also eliminated

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Norway’s Casper Ruud was defeated by Jenson Brooksby in his second round match in Melbourne on Thursday. The end also came for the German Olympic champion Alexander Zverev, who also lost to an American in four sets with Michael Mmoh.

For Ruud, it’s 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, only the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic remain of the original four players who could have replaced Carlos Alcaraz on the tennis throne. If neither of these two players wins the tournament, the injured missing Spaniard Alcaraz remains number one.

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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 has never advanced past the round of 16 at the Australian Open. Last year’s finalist of the French Open and the US Open, who was otherwise strong on hard court, has to wait for his first Grand Slam title.

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 deal with it. I hope to get rid of it for a long time now.” The third in the world rankings rejected the fact that his joint preparatory tour with Nadal in South America in December could have played a role in the departure of the two stars. However, he will reconsider his program for 2023 at the end of the year.

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, who had to postpone his Australian Open debut last year due to a Covid disease, now meets his US compatriot Tommy Paul.

Fritz out early too

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 French Open semifinals, the 25-year-old was far from his best form.

“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.

Like Thiem, the German has had a long period of suffering, both are fighting to join the top of the world. In 2020, the two rivals faced each other in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park. As in the same year, Thiem prevailed in the US Open final. “I have hard work ahead of me to get back to where I was,” Zverev knows.

In the women’s race, Estonian Anett Kontaveit, number 16, who eliminated Austria’s starter Julia Grabher at the start, was beaten by Poland’s 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.

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