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The opening day of the 2023 Australian Open was damped by a few last-minute withdrawals, including Nick Kyrgios, Ajla Tomljanovic, and Paula Badosa. Two-time champion Naomi Osaka announced her pregnancy in the leadup. Luckily, many contenders are left, and there's plenty of action to enjoy in the fortnight ahead.
Let’s take a look at some second-round showdowns with Universal Tennis INSIGHTS.
(7) Coco Gauff (12.66) vs. Emma Raducanu (12.50)
One of the most anticipated matches this week will feature 18-year-old American Coco Gauff against 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu. Gauff reached her first Grand Slam final last year at Roland Garros and is expected to win many in her career. If anyone knows what it’s like to deal with oppressive pressure and expectation, it’s 20-year-old Raducanu.
The two have never faced each other before, and INSIGHTS expects Gauff to advance with 62% odds. Though there’s a clear-cut favorite, this match-up is one of the closest in the second round.
(13) Danielle Collins (12.56) vs. Karolina Muchova (12.34)
Another second-round to watch out for is Danielle Collins versus Czechwoman Karolina Muchova. Collins is seeded No. 13 and is the defending Australian Open finalist, but Muchova enjoyed her own breakthrough Down Under when she reached the semifinals in 2021. This is also their first career meeting, and Collins holds the edge in hard-court UTR Rating(12.59 to 12.36) and three-month trending UTR Rating (12.49 to 12.27).
(1) Rafael Nadal (16.05) vs. Mackenzie McDonald (15.26)
In men’s action, Rafael Nadal began his title defense with a four-set win over British hopeful Jack Draper. After the 3.5-hour bout, Nadal kept things in perspective.
"I need a victory, so that's the main thing," Nadal said. "Doesn't matter the way.”
Nadal’s next opponent is 27-year-old American Mackenzie McDonald, who prevailed over his compatriot Brandon Nakashima in five sets. Nadal is favored heavily at 88% odds of reaching the third round. The 36-year-old Spaniard has beaten McDonald before, at Roland Garros in 2020, where he dropped just four games.
Australians Capitalize on Wild Cards
In other men’s action, Australian 29-year-old Jason Kubler took advantage of his wild card opportunity to defeat Sebastian Baez in straight sets to set up a meeting with No. 18 seed Karen Khachanov. Kubler made strides at the Grand Slam level last year, reaching the fourth round as a qualifier at Wimbledon.
Still, Khachanov is favored at 72%, with Kubler’s biggest edge being his superior recent head-to-head record (56-28 compared to Khachanov’s 47-31).
Though Kyrgios withdrew with a knee injury, Australia is still well-represented as fellow Australian Rinky Hijikata, just 21 years old, also made good on his wild card to defeat Yannick Hanfmann and set up a second-round clash with No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Hijikata had the crowd in his corner as he battled across four hours and 25 minutes.
"I couldn't have done it without the support today. I'm so grateful for everyone coming out," Hijikata said on court. "That is the most fun match I've ever played in my life."
In women’s action, another wild card entry, 20-year-old Australian Olivia Gadecki took out qualifier Polina Kudermetova for her first win Down Under. Gadecki has been mentored by none other than 2022 Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty, who just announced she’s expecting her first child.
Honorable Mention: Christopher Eubanks (14.90)
A special mention goes to Christopher Eubanks, for achieving his first Australian Open win in five sets over Kwoon Soon-woo. Eubanks, who has lent his expertise to Universal Tennis Paid Hits (a service that pairs elite players with anyone willing to pay for a hit). The 26-year-old picked up his first Grand Slam win at the 2022 US Open and will look to reach the third round of a major for the first time against 21-year-old Jiri Lehecka. Lehecka stunned No. 21-seeded Borna Coric in straight sets to win his first Grand Slam match.
UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 a.m. EST, January 16, 2023.