The Australian Open finally emerged from the dominating and tiring subject of Novak Djokovic’s presence in the country resulting in his physical deportation yesterday.
I think that’s maybe my worst match in the last eight months or so, Cameron Norrie
However, his name, as the top seed, had been included in the draw made last Thursday and he is now replaced by a ‘Lucky Loser’ leaving the top half of the draw much more open than the bottom. In the ‘old days’ the seeds would just have been moved up a spot which was much fairer for the overall field.
While the Serbian left Melbourne yesterday under escort, he has now been joined by a series of other players who have failed to get past the first round on Day One of the AO, the first grand slam of the 2022 season.
Amongst them is Britain’s No.1 Cameron Norrie, the 12th seed, who continued his winless start to the season with a disappointing loss to Sebastian Korda.
It was always going to be a tricky match for Norrie as the young American, son of former Australian Open champion Petr and brother of professional golfers Jessica and Nelly Korda, is destined for a big future in the sport.
The 6-3 6-0 6-4 loss is certainly a disappointing one for a player who is now renown for his consistency and doggedness but from the start, Korda took control leaving Norrie struggling in his wake as the 21-year-old swept through nine consecutive games in the middle of the match, to break his spirit.
Norrie, who reached the third round in Melbourne last year, could barely hide his disappointment when speaking after his loss.
“I think that’s maybe my worst match in the last eight months or so,” he said. “I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and just I was too slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on.
“Korda was too good today. Any time I had a chance to come back, he served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me.
“I didn’t play well in really any big point today. That’s part of it and just a disappointing way to start the year with this match.”
Rafa Nadal on the other hand, made a very convincing start to his campaign by defeating Marcos Giron of the US 6-1 6-4 6-2.
Seeded six, the Spanish superstar can now concentrate on winning his 21st grand slam title and pull ahead of his two rivals, Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The Mallorcan’s 2021 season had been hampered by a foot injury side-lining him since August, and his return to the tour this year is more than welcome.
Nadal has only won the Aussie leg of the grand slams once, 13 years ago, but has started his campaign well by winning the Melbourne Summer Set warm-up tournament 8 days ago.
“You never know when you come back from injuries, things are difficult, you go day by day, but I’m staying positive,” Nadal said in post-match interview.
“I won three matches and a title here last week. I have had very challenging months, tough moments and a lot of doubts, but I have been able to manage my foot injury.”
Nadal added he was still a little bit tired after contracting the Covid virus following an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi late December before travelling ‘Down Under’.
“The symptoms haven’t been nice, I was in bed for four days, but I am starting to feel better and I had negative PCR tests before coming to Australia.”
Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, who reached the round of 16 or better at all four majors last year, made a slow start before finding his rhythm to get past unseeded American Brandon Nakashima 4-6 6-2 7-6(5) 6-3.
The Italian – coming into the tournament ranked a career-high seventh in the world – has been backed to better his best-ever showing at Melbourne Park: the fourth-round last year.
However, the 25-year-old found himself a set down to world number 68, the fast-improving Nakashima, before recovering and after the match, revealing that he was suffering from an upset stomach hence the ‘Imodium! Grazie’ call on the TV lens.
“I’ve been feeling sick with my stomach, let’s say that,” Berrettini said. “It was really hard to play, especially the third and fourth set.
“(I was) playing a great match against Brandon… I told myself to fight, to do my best and in the end I won. I’m really happy.
“I was feeling that the match was changing a little bit there so I really held on with my mental strength mostly because my body wasn’t there,” Berrettini added. “Then also, the tiebreak I was playing really good and then got a little bit tight.
“Luckily I got the third set and after that I said: ‘Okay now focus on my service game and let’s try to break him somehow’.”
Denis Shapovalov was also made to work hard over three-hours and 23-minutes by Serb Laslo Djere before sealing a 7-6(3) 6-4 3-6 7- (3) win, while 17th-seed Gael Monfils, the Adelaide International 1 champion, downed Federico Coria 6-1 6-1 6-3 and the third seed, Alexander Zverev managed to win in three sets against fellow German countryman Daniel Altmaier 7/6(3) 6/1 7/6(1).
Benjamin Bonzi secured his first ever AO victory, securing a 6-3 6-3 6-3 over world No.87 Peter Gojowczyk and was matched by Stefan Kozlov, ranked 169 and a wildcard entry, posting his first win at grand slam level by taking down Jiri Vesely 7-5 6-3 6-4.
Finally Aslan Karatsev, last year’s surprise AO semi-finlist and currently the world No.15, recovered from a set and break down to defeat Spain’s Jaume Munar 3-6 7-6(1) 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4 hitting 87 winners but making 107 unforced errors during the four hour and 52-minute match.