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Aus Open PIX: Agut ends Murray's run; Djokovic cruises

Last updated on: January 21, 2023 18:34 IST

Images from Day 6 of the 2023 Australian Open, at Melbourne Park, on Saturday.

Spain's Roberto Bautista-Agut celebrates winning his third round match against Britain's Andy Murray on Saturday, Day 6 of the 2023 Australian Open, at Melbourne Park.

IMAGE: Spain's Roberto Bautista-Agut celebrates winning his third round match against Britain's Andy Murray on Saturday, Day 6 of the 2023 Australian Open, at Melbourne Park. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Andy Murray's brave Australian Open run ground to a halt against Roberto Bautista Agut, the Spaniard fending off the fatigued former world number one 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4 in the third round to advance on Saturday.

After back-to-back five-set wins over Matteo Berrettini and Thanasi Kokkinakis, a ragged Murray hung tough against the 24th seed but was gradually worn down over the course of the three-and-a-half hour slog at a floodlit Margaret Court Arena.

 

Murray's previous match against Kokkinakis, which ended past four in the morning after nearly five hours of play, left him with little sleep, a bad back and a slew of blisters that needed draining from his feet.

Between points against Bautista Agut he shuffled around the baseline like a frail senior citizen but when the ball was in play he threw himself around the court to give the Spaniard a proper scare.

"My feet didn't feel great. My legs were actually OK ... but I was struggling with my lower back," Murray told reporters. "That was affecting my serve and that was really the main thing today."

With the crowd firmly in his corner, Murray broke Bautista Agut in the first game of the fourth set to raise hopes of levelling the match but he ended up squandering a 2-0 lead before dropping serve in the ninth game.

Andy Murray waves to the crowd as he walks back after losing to Roberto Bautista-Agut.

IMAGE: Andy Murray waves to the crowd as he walks back after losing to Roberto Bautista-Agut. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

The spent Scot soon fired a cross-court forehand long to concede match point and netted a weary backhand return to bow out, triggering manic celebrations by Bautista Agut, who will play American Tommy Paul for a place in the quarter-finals.

Bautista Agut knocked Murray out in the opening round of the tournament four years ago, after the tearful Scot said his hip was shot and his career might be over.

It has been a long and punishing road back for the three-times Grand Slam champion since being fitted with a metal hip.

But he was encouraged by his week at Melbourne Park, if disappointed not to reach the second week.

"Lots of mixed emotions, I feel like I gave everything I had to this event, so I'm proud of that," he said.

"But, yeah, I'm also disappointed because I put loads of work into the beginning of this year and was playing well enough to have a really good run, have a deep run.

"I'm disappointed because I feel like I could have gone quite a bit further."

At 35 and despite all the aches and pains, Murray's court movement was impressive. He leaves Melbourne Park without an injury and confident of being ready for his next stop in Rotterdam.

"I felt good about the way that I was playing," he said.

"It's more enjoyable for me when I'm playing like that, when I'm coming into a major event and really believing that I can do some damage."

Djokovic overcomes injury and Dimitrov challenge

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his third round match against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday, Day 6 of the 2023 Australian Open, at Melbourne Park.

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his third round match against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Novak Djokovic continued his charge towards a 10th Australian Open title with a superb 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov to reach the fourth round, but fears about the durability of his injured left hamstring only grew.

The Serbian, who is eyeing a 22nd major to match Rafael Nadal, looked uncertain in his movement in a roller-coaster opening set where he began with a break, squandered three set points at 5-3 and dropped serve late on before edging a thrilling tie-break.

Novak Djokovic applauds as Grigor Dimitrov walks off the court.

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic applauds as Grigor Dimitrov walks off the court. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

A heavily-strapped but more aggressive Djokovic emerged from a medical time-out and built pressure with his relentless returns from the back, going up 4-2 as 27th seed Dimitrov hit the net to surrender his serve, and went on to wrap up the second set.

A half-fit Djokovic can still be a handful for most players but the fourth seed looked a little more certain of his mobility in the third set and a double break to start helped him subdue the error-prone Dimitrov who failed to make a late comeback.

Rublev, Rune to clash for berth in quarters

IMAGE: Russia's Andrey Rublev celebrates winning his third round match against Daniel Evans of Great Britain. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev avoided a third round banana skin in the form of Briton Dan Evans at the Australian Open on Saturday after former world number one Karolina Pliskova sailed into the last 16 of the women's tournament.

Red-headed Russian Rublev has found Evans a handful in the past but swept aside the 25th seed 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 with 60 winners on a glorious afternoon at Melbourne Park.

A quarter-finalist two years ago, Rublev had unleashed on the chair umpire in his previous match after being warned for an audible obscenity.

But it was all smooth sailing against Evans, who obligingly threw Rublev a banana during a change of ends at sun-drenched Margaret Court Arena when the Russian came up empty in his search for a snack.

"I didn't ask him (for one), I asked the ball-boy," said Rublev, who will meet Danish young gun Holger Rune for a place in the quarter-finals.

Rune shrugs off nasty fall to advance

Denmark's Holger Rune celebrates winning his third round match against France's Ugo Humbert.

IMAGE: Denmark's Holger Rune celebrates winning his third round match against France's Ugo Humbert. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Holger Rune suffered a nasty-looking fall midway through his third-round match against Ugo Humbert on Saturday but the ninth seed showed it will take more than that to keep him down.

A dark horse at the year's first Grand Slam after his Paris Masters final victory over Novak Djokovic in November, the 19-year-old moved into the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(5) win.

With home favourite Nick Kyrgios absent due to a knee problem, holder Rafael Nadal and second seed Casper Ruud limping out in the second round, and nine-times champion Novak Djokovic hampered by a hamstring issue, organisers would have been holding their breath when another seed took a tumble.

Looking dazed after turning his ankle and landing awkwardly, Rune needed lengthy treatment on court, but the Dane is made of sterner stuff.

"It wasn't too bad," he told reporters. "I was able to play full. The third set, of course, I was a bit worried by what happened, but I saw the slow-motion after the match. Nothing dangerous.

"I relaxed a lot more because I was a bit afraid, but honestly, I played very good after it happened. So I'm feeling hopeful."

Rune had reached the third round with wins over Filip Krajinovic and Maxime Cressy and is yet to lose a set, but Russian fifth seed Rublev presents a tough obstacle.

Rublev said the Dane would not go into the match as the underdog after a breakthrough year in which he took out a number of top-10 players, most notably during his Paris title run.

Rune agreed.

"Honestly, I never feel like an underdog," Rune said. "I have high ambitions every time I play. Even we played each other last year in Paris. I was still believing that I could beat him, and I did beat him.

"He's obviously playing well here. He won in straight sets today as well. And he's really solid. Like, forehand, backhand he can do anything on the tennis court. He has no weakness.

"I'll be expecting a tough match, but really looking forward to it."

"He helped me with some energy, for sure."

De Minaur reaches last 16

Australia's Alex de Minaur reacts as he walks off the court after winning his third round match against France's Benjamin Bonzi.

IMAGE: Australia's Alex de Minaur reacts as he walks off the court after winning his third round match against France's Benjamin Bonzi.. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Home favourite Alex De Minaur stepped out of Nick Kyrgios's shadow and stormed into the last 16.

Kyrgios's absence due to injury robbed the tournament of one of its biggest drawcards but Australian number two De Minaur ensured home fans will have someone to cheer for in the second week as he steamrolled Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-1 in front of a heaving centre-court crowd.

"To see a packed Rod Laver Arena was pretty special, you know, all having my back," the 22nd seed, who next faces Novak Djokovic, told reporters.

"It's one of those moments where you've just got to pinch yourself and stay in the moment."

Bencic advances to last 16

IMAGE: Belinda Bencic celebrates winning her third round match against Camila Giorgi of Italy. Photograph: Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

In the bottom quarter of the women's draw, 12th seed Belinda Bencic continued her smooth run with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Camila Giorgi in the second match at Rod Laver Arena.

Olympic champion Bencic has now racked up nine straight wins, including the Adelaide International '2' title, in a near-perfect start to the season, a few months after linking up with Emma Raducanu's former coach Dmitry Tursunov.

"It's working really well. I'm changing some things, (going) out of my comfort zone," the Swiss said on court.

"But I'm really happy with the start of the season."

Unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic joined Bencic in the last 16 with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Spain's Nuria Parrizas Diaz.

Pliskova brushes aside Gracheva

IMAGE: Karolina Pliskova in action during her third round match against Russia's Varvara Gracheva. Photograph: Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

Pliskova, renowned for being a former world number one without a Grand Slam title, beat Russian Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-2 in the early match at Rod Laver Arena to book a fourth round spot against China's Zhang Shuai.

Twice major finalist Pliskova missed last year's tournament after breaking her arm in a freak gym accident but victory over 23rd seed Zhang would continue the tall Czech's resurgence following her quarter-final run at Flushing Meadows.

"Last couple years were tough, especially missing it last year," she told reporters.

"I think the conditions here, they can be quite good for me."

Czech teen Fruhvirtova downs Vondrousova to reach fourth round

The Czech Republic's Linda Fruhvirtova in action during her second round match against Australia's Kimberly Birrell.

IMAGE: The Czech Republic's Linda Fruhvirtova in action during her second round match against Australia's Kimberly Birrell. Photograph: Sandra Sanders/Reuters

Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova marched into the fourth round with a battling 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 victory over compatriot Marketa Vondrousova.

At 17 years and 273 days, Fruhvirtova is the youngest woman remaining in the draw.

Playing in only her second Grand Slam main draw, Fruhvirtova showed extraordinary composure to rally from 3-1 down in the decider and beat her more fancied opponent.

Vondrousova has struggled to replicate the form that helped her reach the 2019 Roland Garros final but the 23-year-old had looked set for a deep run in Melbourne after beating second seed second seed Ons Jabeur in the last round.

World number 82 Fruhvirtova - who won her first WTA title in Chennai in September - had other plans, however, and held her nerve in the third set to set up a meeting with Croatian Donna Vekic.

Source: REUTERS
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