Monday, February 6, 2023

Korda stuns Medvedev after sun shines on Tsitsipas, Swiatek; Coco, Azarenka win

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Iga Swiatek dazzled in bright sunshine to make short work of their third-round opponents on Friday as some normalcy returned to the Australian Open after scheduling woes, wild weather, upsets and late finishes.
That sense of normality was shattered in the cool of the late evening, however, when American Sebastian Korda stunned former world number one Daniil Medvedev 7-6(7) 6-3 7-6(4) for the biggest win of his young career. The 22-year-old, son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr, unleashed an all-court assault on the Russian 2021 U.S. Open champion, hammering 50 winners and making regular charges to the net.
“Probably one of the better matches I’ve played in my career,” said an elated Korda. “Just stuck with the game plan, kept going after it. I think positive mentally throughout it. No matter what happened, kept pushing forward.”
Third seed Tsitsipas, the top surviving seed in the men’s draw, beat Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 6-2 7-6(5) 6-3 and then waxed lyrical on the clement conditions after hours of tennis were lost this week to extreme heat and rain.
Tsitsipas has still not dropped a set in the tournament as he chases his maiden Grand Slam, with his chances boosted by the exits of holder Rafa Nadal and second seed Casper Ruud and an injury cloud hanging over favourite Novak Djokovic.
The departure of Medvedev, the losing finalist for the last two years at Melbourne Park, further opened up the draw.
Women’s favourite Swiatek was even more dominant in her 6-0 6-1 victory over Cristina Bucsa as she took another step towards adding a first Australian Open title to the French and U.S. Open crowns she won last year.
Up next for Swiatek is Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who battled past last year’s Melbourne Park runner-up Danielle Collins 6-2 5-7 6-2.
It was a bad start to the day for the American women but in-form Jessica Pegula, the third seed, soon swatted aside Marta Kostyuk 6-0 6-2 and seventh seed Coco Gauff dismissed compatriot Bernarda Pera 6-3 6-2.
Madison Keys looked like continuing her unbeaten start to the season when she took the first set against Victoria Azarenka only for the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion to rally for a 1-6 6-2 6-1 upset of the 10th seed.
Azarenka will next play world number 87 Zhu Lin of China, who stunned Greek sixth seed Maria Sakkari 7-6(3) 1-6 6-4 in the final match of the day.
No American man has captured a Grand Slam singles title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open, but the country’s hopes had been raised after eight men made the third round.
Nadal’s unseeded conqueror Mackenzie McDonald was unable to continue his run, however, as he fell 7-6(6) 6-3 6-2 to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
Frances Tiafoe and his eye-catching outfit also departed 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-6(9) at the hands of Russian Karen Khachanov in a meeting of the losing semi-finalists at last year’s U.S. Open.
Organisers were grateful for the swift early victories after being forced to defend their scheduling following Andy Murray’s five-set victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis, which concluded at just after 4.05 a.m on Friday morning.
Murray described the late finish as a “joke” but tournament director Craig Tiley, who had been battling to get the schedule back on track after the weather disruptions, ruled out immediate changes.
Although none matched the six hours that Murray took to triumph in the wee hours, there were plenty of lengthy men’s matches for the fans to enjoy.
Italian Jannik Sinner came from two sets down to beat Marton Fucsovics 4-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-0, while Czech Jiri Lehecka took five sets to upset British 11th seed Cameron Norrie 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-4.
Sixth seed Felix Auger Aliassime also advanced with a 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-4 win over Francisco Cerundolo but his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov came up short in a stirring comeback against 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz and bowed out 7-6(3) 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-3.
Murray wins 5-hr-45-minute epic against Kokkinakis: Andy Murray just wanted to go to the bathroom. It was 3 a.m., he’d already been playing his Australian Open second-round match against Thanasi Kokkinakis for more than 4 1/2 hours — they would carry on for another set across more than another hour — and Murray was hoping to be allowed to head to the locker room for a quick break. Rules are rules, though, and Murray already had left the court twice, so chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore wouldn’t budge, prompting this rebuke from the three-time Grand Slam champion: “It’s a joke. And you know it, as well.”
Ah, the perils of playing all night, something that occurs occasionally in tennis, more than in other professional sports. It all left the 35-year-old Murray angry and wondering aloud after 4:05 a.m. Friday — when he finally, mercifully, finished off the 4-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 7-5 victory over Kokkinakis following 5 hours, 45 minutes of clashing skills and wills at Margaret Court Arena — why this sort of “farce,” as he termed it, needs to occur at all.

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