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Aus Open: Easy win for Nadal; Kenin crashes out

Last updated on: February 11, 2021 18:17 IST
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Images from Day 4 of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Thursday.

Dominant Nadal reaches third round with easy victory

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal plays a backhand against Michael Mmoh of the United States. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal dispelled any remaining doubts over his fitness with a commanding 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win against American qualifier Michael Mmoh, on Thursday, to march into the Australian Open third round and stay on track for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

The second seed did not play a match in Spain’s ATP Cup campaign last week with a back problem and following his opening win in Melbourne he had said the injury was still bothering him.

 

Nadal showed no sign of discomfort, however, against the 177th-ranked American under the closed roof of the Rod Laver Arena and peppered the blue court with winners from both forehand and backhand sides as Mmoh watched on helplessly.

The 2009 Melbourne Park winner, who is tied with Roger Federer at 20 Grand Slam singles titles, will next meet either Briton Cameron Norrie or Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin.

Tsitsipas avoids Greek tragedy

Stefanos Tsitsipas

IMAGE: Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates winning his second round match against Thanasi Kokkinakis during day four of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Thursday. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

A Greek tragedy threatened to befall Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open on Thursday before the fifth seed steadied to fend off local wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4 and reach the third round.

The day after Nick Kyrgios sent John Cain Arena into delirium with a thrilling comeback, 267th-ranked Greek-Australian Kokkinakis appeared set for the boilover of the tournament when he threaded a backhand down the line to send the match into a fifth set.

It was not to be, though, as Tsitsipas captured the decisive break in the fifth game and held on grimly to close out a four-hour 32-minute epic in the steamy twilight at Rod Laver Arena.

The only player from Greece to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, Tsitsipas paid tribute to his friend Kokkinakis, who celebrated his first Australian Open win in six years on Tuesday after battling injuries and illness.

"Thanasi is a great competitor and a great fighter. As you saw it was very difficult facing him today," the 22-year-old said on court.

"I just want to go for a nice bath right now, that's all I'm thinking."

Stefanos Tsitsipas

IMAGE: Stefanos Tsitsipas had shocked Roger Federer on the way to the semi-finals in Melbourne two years ago. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Tsitsipas set Melbourne's huge Greek community alight two years ago when he shocked Roger Federer on the way to the semi-finals at the Grand Slam.

There was little love for him from the Rod Laver Arena crowd on Thursday, however, with fans firmly behind Adelaide-born Kokkinakis, the son of Greek immigrants.

With no apparent sponsorship from apparel giants, Kokkinakis caused a stir when he wore a black, A$6 ($4.65) Kmart T-shirt from a local shopping mall in his first round match.

Against Tsitsipas, he wore a crisp white T-shirt but had a small logo stitched onto the sleeves, having picked up an endorsement deal from a workplace safety firm.

The company got its money's worth as Kokkinakis took the first set, with Tsitsipas serving up a double-fault on set point.

Tsitsipas knuckled down in the next two sets and was cruising to victory with a break in the fourth before Kokkinakis rallied and closed out a thrilling tiebreak with an exquisite backhand passing shot.

In the end, Tsitsipas survived to set up a third round clash with Swede Mikael Ymer.

"Despite the difficulty of the match today I really enjoyed being out here and competing and showing the world a really high quality of tennis," said Tsitsipas, who never dropped serve against the Australian.

Kokkinakis and his cheap T-shirt left the court to a huge ovation, and the hope of bigger things to come.

Kanepi fights off nerves to crush Kenin

Sofia Kenin

IMAGE: Sofia Kenin never looked anything like the player who won the Australian Open last year. Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Reigning champion Sofia Kenin crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round on Thursday, slumping to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat at the hands of world number 65 Kaia Kanepi on Margaret Court Arena.

The 22-year-old, who followed her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park last year with a run to the final at the French Open, sprayed 22 unforced errors in the 64-minute contest against the experienced Estonian.

Kenin has been reduced to tears on court on several occasions since she came out of quarantine in Melbourne and admitted she has been struggling to contain her nerves at the prospect of defending the title.

Kanepi, who reached the final of the Gippsland Trophy warm-up tournament last week, was just the sort of hardened veteran who would look to exploit any mental frailties in her opponent.

Kaia Kanepi

IMAGE: World number 65 Kaia Kanepi in action. Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Estonian played a solid, if unspectacular, match, breaking Kenin for 3-1 in the opening set and never looking back after fending off three break points in the next game.

"I served really well today, I think this helped a lot," the 35-year-old said.

"My gameplan was to play aggressive as I usually do."

Kenin slammed her racket into the ground in frustration after losing the first set but never looked anything like the player who beat Garbine Muguruza in last year's final.

Kanepi kept up the pressure in the second set, in which Kenin failed to muster up a single break point, and the Estonian sealed her victory in emphatic style with her 10th ace.

Watched by her coach father Alex, Kenin gave a quick wave to the sparse crowd as she walked off court with her head bowed, her title defence over.

Next up for Kanepi is a third-round tie against Croatian Donna Vekic, who beat Argentine Nadia Podoroska in her second round match on Thursday.

Barty wobbles before winning all-Australia clash

Ashleigh Barty

IMAGE: Ash Barty in action during her second round match against Daria Gavrilova of Australia. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

World number one Ash Barty suffered a meltdown on the brink of victory but regathered herself to fend off local compatriot Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 7-6(7) and reach the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.

Barty, who came onto centre court with her left thigh heavily strapped, served for the match at 5-2 but was broken twice in a hail of unforced errors, allowing wildcard Gavrilova to drag the contest deep into a tiebreak.

Fortunately for Barty, Gavrilova reprieved her twice with unforced errors on set point and then coughed up another on match point to surrender on a steamy day at Rod Laver Arena.

Having destroyed first round opponent Danka Kovinic 6-0 6-0 in 44 minutes, Barty said her slump against Gavrilova was par for the course after missing almost the entire 2020 season.

"I think it’s natural," the top seed told reporters.

"I mean, I haven’t played a lot of tennis over the last 12 months. Obviously (I’m) going to have ebbs and flows, not only in your concentration but your level of play as well.

"It’s important to be able to bring that back as often as possible. For a couple of games, I wasn’t able to do that."

IMAGE: World No 1 Ash Barty came onto centre court with her left thigh heavily strapped. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Barty said she had tweaked a muscle in her leg when warming up for her first round match on Tuesday but downplayed the injury.

"The bandage is very big, but that’s more just support so that the tape itself doesn’t fall off," she said.

"It’s not a very subtle tape job, you often see it on a lot of the girls. The guys can hide it beneath their shorts a little bit better.

"Obviously it’s not affecting the way that I can play in any way."

Barty, who will face Russian 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova for a place in the fourth round, reached the semi-finals last year only to be shocked by surprise winner Sofia Kenin when seemingly on the verge of ending Australia’s long wait for a home winner.

The last Australian to win the singles title was Chris O’Neil in 1978.

Kenin was knocked out by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi on Thursday, meaning Barty avoids a semi-final re-match with the American.

The Australian said Kenin’s demise did not affect her "whatsoever."

"No disrespect to anyone, but I don’t look much at the schedule," she said.

Pliskova exacts revenge on Collins

IMAGE: Karolina Pliskova, seeded sixth, lost serve twice in a see-saw opening set but pulled away in the second to book a place in the third round. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova conceded she played far from her best tennis at the Australian Open on Thursday, but excelled in clutch moments to avenge a loss to Danielle Collins in a warm-up tournament just eight days ago.

Pliskova, seeded sixth, lost serve twice in a see-saw opening set but pulled away in the second to book a place in the third round with a 7-5, 6-2 win over American Collins, a 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist.

After winning last week’s contest at the Yarra Valley Classic in two tightly-contested tiebreakers, Collins leaked errors from her normally reliable forehand, allowing Pliskova to take control late in the first set.

"I don’t think was really good quality today. I think I just played better in some moments, which I didn’t last week," Pliskova said.

"I knew if I just play at least similar as I was playing last week, I knew it’s going to be difficult for her to repeat what she played last week.

"It was more about like staying positive, staying in there. I knew I’m going to have some chances, which I did."

Up next for Pliskova, who is chasing her maiden Grand Slam title, is fellow Czech and 25th seed Karolina Muchova.

The two are friends off the court and practised together during a mandatory two-week quarantine period before the Australian Open.

"Even if we would not practise those two weeks in quarantine, we practice a lot in Czech. We are actually quite good friends," Pliskova said.

"Of course, she’s a dangerous player. It’s going to be very tricky."

Birthday boy Medvedev extends winning streak to 16 matches

Daniil Medvedev

IMAGE: Russia's Daniil Medvedev in action during his second round match against Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena. Photograph: Jaimi Joy/Reuters

Daniil Medvedev continued his impressive run of form as he celebrated his 25th birthday with a clinical 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Roberto Carballes Baena to reach the third round. 

The fourth seed lost his cool when the Spaniard broke his serve in the second set but recovered his composure to prevail after 104 minutes on the John Cain Arena court and extend his winning streak to 16 matches.

The run includes victories over Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev and titles at the ATP Finals, French Masters and most recently the ATP Cup as mainstay of the Russian team.

"Sometimes in tennis and in all sports you see this, you have this momentum," Medvedev said after wrapping up the match with his 13th ace.

"I'm really enjoying it and hopefully I can keep it going."

While the third stadium court had been a bear pit on Wednesday night when Australian Nick Kyrgios beat Frenchman Ugo Humbert, Thursday's evening session was witnessed by only a handful of fans.

"With a crowd it's easier, but the aim on the tennis court is to win. When there's no crowd, we do it for all the fans around the world," said Medvedev.

Next up for the Russian in the third round is Serbian Filip Krajinovic, a prospect that Medvedev said would keep him from celebrating his birthday on Thursday.

"It's a Slam, so I got my present from my wife but tomorrow I'll train and get ready for the next match," he said.

"If I'd lost, I'd probably go out and celebrate but I won so..."

The 2019 U.S. Open finalist said he would be happy to put the celebrations on hold until Sunday week when he hopes to be playing his second Grand Slam final.

"That's the best present for anyone in the world so hopefully it can happen," he said grinning.

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