Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Australian Open 2022: Andy Murray, Sabalenka, Daniil Medvedev eases into second round

Australian Open 2022

MELBOURNE, January 18: Andy Murray battled to his first win at the Australian Open since 2017 with an epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili on Tuesday.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, playing with a metal hip following career-saving surgery in 2019, wrestled with the Georgian for almost four hours before claiming his place in the second round.
Scotland’s Murray, ranked 113 and playing as a tournament wild card, showed his trademark fighting spirit to edge home in the gripping final set and clinch a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 victory in 3hr 52 min on John Cain Arena.
It comes after his tearful exit from the 2019 Melbourne event with the hip injury which raised the possibility of his imminent retirement from tennis, before he went ahead with surgery just weeks later.
“Amazing, been a tough three or four years. Put in a lot work to get back here,” a relieved Murray, 34, said on court.
“I’ve played on this court many times and the atmosphere is incredible.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
It continued a keen rivalry between the pair with Murray rallying from a set down to defeat the big-hitting Georgian last week in Sydney and also prevailing over four sets in the first round at Wimbledon last year.
World number two Aryna Sabalenka fixed her early-season serving horrors to rally from a set down and power into the Australian Open second round Tuesday.
The second seed from Belarus came into the season-opening Grand Slam low on confidence after self-destructing at two warm-up tournaments where her serve left her distraught.
It got so bad against world number 93 Rebecca Peterson in Adelaide that she was reduced to sending deliveries underarm, at one point breaking down in tears.
Across those two defeats, she threw down 39 double faults.
She reduced the count to 12 against Storm Sanders on Rod Laver Arena to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, but with four in her first two service games it appeared she was in for another miserable night.
Sabalenka, though, kept her cool and finally found her range to stay in the match and the tournament.
“The start of the season was not great and really happy I got this win,” she said.
“I stopped thinking too much and just tried to play tennis. She was a tough opponent so very happy.”
Sabalenka, enjoying her highest-ever seeding at the Australian Open, sent down her first double fault on her opening serve with Sanders breaking to take an immediate advantage.
The Belarussian was dangerous when the ball was in play but her confidence was down and she made three more double faults on the next game to slump 2-1 behind.
Sensing her chance, Sanders comfortably held and while Sabalenka managed to avoid more double faults on her next service game her delivery lacked potency.
But she stayed in the hunt by breaking Sanders and then holding for the first time to be 3-4.
Another hold helped her confidence, but the jitters returned and two more double faults allowed Sanders another break for 6-5 and she made no mistake this time to take the set.
Yet more double faults allowed the Australian to move 3-1 clear in the second set, but 23-year-old Sabalenka refused to go quietly.
Her first ace of the match helped her through a tough seventh game for 4-3 and she then broke again and took the set, pumping her fists in celebration.
Sanders’ confidence was sapped and Sabalenka, a fourth round loser last year to Serena Williams, made no more mistakes and raced to victory.
Title favourite Daniil Medvedev wore down Swiss Henri Laaksonen to win his opening match at the Australian Open on Tuesday with little fuss.
The Russian, who is looking for back-to-back Grand Slam crowns after winning last year’s US Open, prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in 1 hour 54 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena.
“I tried to win the third set, I thought I’ll wait (for the tiebreaker), it managed to work out, so I’m really happy about it,” the world number two said on court.
“I started well in Australia last year, won the ATP Cup and managed to be in the final here. I like to play here, I like hardcourts and I want to do better than I did last year.”
Medvedev is aiming to go one better than last year’s losing final appearance against Novak Djokovic, but with the world number one back home in Serbia after his deportation, the Russian is the nominated favourite for the title.
Medvedev dropped his opening service game against Laaksonen, but reeled off the next six games to take the first set.
When the 91st-ranked Laaksonen finally held service in the opening game of the second set, the crowd loudly cheered.
The Swiss was more competitive in the second set, but the second seed was still controlling things with his methodical groundstrokes.
Laaksonen raised his level and came out on top of several long rallies, but Medvedev’s experience proved the difference in the third-set tiebreaker. (AFP)