The fifth day of the Australian Open sees the top half of the men’s draw reach the fourth round and there are a few surprises this year, as the line-up doesn’t include the top seed, Rafa Nadal the defending champion and Daniil Medvedev, a two-time Finalist in Melbourne.
It was an unbelievable match. I kind of knew what I needed to do and stuck with it - just go for it, Sebastian Korda
While Nadal was eliminated in the second round, Medvedev crashed out in round three to Sebastian Korda whose father Petr ran off with the title 25 years ago.
While it would seem too soon to predict the 22-year-old could follow in his fathers footsteps and add the senior title to the Junior one he picked up five years ago, his 7-6(7) 6-3 7-6(4) victory over the seventh seeded Medvedev, was superb and certainly augurs well in terms of his future on the tour.
In fairness to Medvedev, he has struggled for the form which took him to the top of the world rankings, but he was, on this occasion, outplayed by the young American who opened his season by reaching the final of the Adelaide warm-up event.
Medvedev hung on grimly in the first set, fighting back after dropping his serve three times, but Korda was always ahead in the tie-break.
Playing with precision, particularly off his backhand and taking command of the net, he moved into a two-sets to love lead only to start wobbling when he could see the finishing line in the third. Taken into another tie break, he simply dominated his opponent to claim a place in the fourth round.
“It was an unbelievable match,” Korda said on court. “I kind of knew what I needed to do and stuck with it – just go for it,” a beaming Korda said.
“I’m thrilled right now, I played amazing.”
Earlier, Stefanos Tsitsipas, at three now the highest seed left, continued his serene progress through the draw to set up a rematch with Jannik Sinner, the young Italian seeded 15.
The Greek has yet to drop a set and defeated another in-form player, Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, the Pune champion, 6-2 7-6(5) 6-3.
Tsitsipas has made the semi-finals in three of the previous four years at Melbourne Park and is hoping to seize his chance of going further this time and at present, that looks to be well on the cards.
But he is being cautious as regards his prospects, declaring: “I’ve never been making predictions because the sport that I chose to play is unpredictable. Of course, there are favourites. Everyone knows that.
“If my mind is not there, doesn’t matter who I’m playing. If I’m not able to generate good shots, hit big shots at important moments, be daring at important moments, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.
“It’s always up to me. I believe there are no presents. You should be going after it, you should be creating those opportunities, and aiming big within yourself, sometimes surpass your own abilities. That is something that I enjoy. When I see myself getting beyond that, it is a very beautiful feeling.
“It was good mixing up today, my slice, opening up the court. I think my placement on the serve was exceptional,” Tsitsipas continued.
“I didn’t have a lot of rallies on my serve today, which helped, and I just kept things clean. I enjoyed finding my way through today, it wasn’t easy at times.”
Sinner, who fought back to eliminate Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics. 4-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-0, will certainly test him though he leads the young Italian 4-1 which includes a straight sets victory over him at last year’s AO.
Sinner, 21, said: “I’m looking forward always, for these kind of matches, knowing that he is one of the best players in the world. But I’ve changed a little bit for sure my game. It’s going to be hopefully a good match. We’ll see how it goes this year.”
“The first two sets were very tough for me,” said Sinner, who enjoyed straight sets wins in his opening two matches.
Reflecting on his win, he added: “Obviously, I had to change something in my game. I was feeling the ball well but the final shots I was missing. I did a lot of work physically in the off season and today I was physically good in the last sets.”
Mackenzie McDonald, the American who got the better of an injured Nadal in round two, was unable to follow up his big victory and struggled with an injury himself before capitulating 7-6(6) 6-3 6-2 to the 31st seed Yoshihito Nishioka from Japan.
Canada’s sixth seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime swept past Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-4 while the 10th seed Pole, Hubert Hurkacz defeated his Canadian countryman Denis Shapovalov, the 20th seed, 7-6(3) 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-3.
Speaking after his win, Auger Aliassime said: “Pure relief and then happiness, I’ve been playing well the last few years here, for the third time in a row in the Round of 16. I’ve had some great memories, especially on this court. It’s one of the best crowds in the world, wherever we play.
“I had a great start compared to my first two rounds. This was better. It kind of gave me a little cushion.”
“I was playing a little tight in the second set. I didn’t go for it in the second and he did, so credit to him. I’m happy with the way I turned things around. The last two sets were probably my best ones so far in this tournament.”
Meanwhile much earlier the day, Russia’s Karen Khachanov, the 18th seed, toppled the 16th seeded American, Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-6(9) in what was to prove the first of the day’s upsets which included the exit of Cmeron Norrie, the British No.1 seeded 11, who was upset by the Czech Jiri Lehecka, 6-7(8) 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-4.