4 min read
Week 1 of the Australian Open has had it all: Breakthroughs, babies, curses, marathons, and upsets. It's time to look back at the first week's highlights and give some insight into what to expect next.
Week of Upsets
Early exits plagued the men’s draw, with No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal succumbing in the second round to a hip injury and a sharp Mackenzie McDonald. No. 2 seed Casper Ruud would also drop out in the second round (to Jenson Brooksby). Daniil Medvedev, seeded No. 7 and the defending finalist, tumbled out to rising star Sebastian Korda.
In women's action, top seed and favorite Iga Swiatek was upset by reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur lost in the second round to former Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova. It's the first major in the Open era where zero Top-2 men's and women's seeds have made it to the quarterfinals.
Eight American men and six women reached the third round of the first Grand Slam of the year. Highest-ranked American Jessica Pegula has led the way as the No. 3 seed, while Korda upset Medvedev to reach the round of 16, where he is joined by Ben Shelton, JJ Wolf, and Tommy Paul. On Saturday, Korda won a fifth-set tiebreak over Hubert Hurkacz to reach the quarterfinals. Shelton and Wolf face off next, guaranteeing a second American will be in the quarterfinals.
New Czech Stars
The Czech Republic has long been known for churning out champions, and there are two new ones enjoying breakthroughs this week. Linda Fruhvirtova has dropped one set in three matches to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time in her Australian Open debut. Just 17, Fruhvirtova’s younger sister by two years, Brenda, became one of the youngest player in history to qualify for the main draw. Another teen, 16-year-old Sara Bejlek, also qualified.
In the men’s draw, 21-year-old Jiri Lehecka started his campaign with an upset of No. 21-seeded Borna Coric, in straight sets. He pulled off another upset later in the week over No. 11-seeded Cameron Norrie, and just stunned No. 6-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime for a spot in the final eight. Lehecka had never won a main draw match at the Grand Slam level until this event.
Netflix released the much-anticipated documentary series Break Point in the leadup to the Australian Open. The first five episodes featured the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Ajla Tomljanovic, Matteo Berrettini, Taylor Fritz, Maria Sakkari, Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Casper Ruud — most of whom either withdrew with injuries or lost early. Only Auger-Aliassime was left standing by the third round, and he lost to Lehecka over the weekend.
A whopping 21 players with college tennis ties appeared in the singles draw of the Australian Open, and one more, Diana Schnaider, has committed to school but has yet to start her college career.
College players have long been showing just how strong of a pathway going to school first can be. Shelton took things to new heights in Oz. The 20-year-old, who played at the University of Florida, is appearing in his Australian Open debut and just his second major main draw ever. Shelton won the 2022 NCAA individual championship before joining the pro tour last season. In less than a year, he has catapulted into the ATP Top 100.
Shnaider is only 18 years old, and technically, she has not started her college career at North Carolina State University yet. The teen committed to the school over the summer but has been playing on the pro tour, winning a WTA 125K in November before traveling to Australia. She came through the Australian Open qualifying draw and won her opening round before losing to Sakkari in three sets.
Andy Murray has been the marathon man of the tournament, pushed again and again to his physical limits. The 35-year-old Scot spent 5 hours and 45 minutes on court until 4:05 a.m. to defeat Kokkinakis in the second round. Despite the victory, Murray wasn’t thrilled with the scheduling.
“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for…” he told press. “Amazingly, people stayed until the end, and I really appreciate people doing that and creating an atmosphere for us at the end. I really appreciate that.”
Murray had taken out Berrettini in the opening round in 4 hours and 49 minutes, putting his total time after just two matches at 10 hours and 34 minutes. He would drop out to Roberto Bautista Agut in round three.
Babies on Tour
In the leadup to the Australian Open, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka both announced their pregnancies. Barty, who retired last year after winning the 2022 Australian Open, made a few appearances at her home Slam. Osaka has been missing in action on tour since September, raising plenty of speculation, but few could have guessed she’d be announcing baby news. In her announcement, the 25-year-old shared plans to return to the tour as a new mom.
Several bold colorful outfits were on display this week in Melbourne Park, led by Frances Tiafoe’s Nike combination that had the internet shrieking. The sleeveless shirt and matching shorts combination really highlighted Tiafoe’s fun-loving personality.
Frances Tiafoe's fit in his opening match at the Australian Open 🎾— ESPN (@espn) January 16, 2023
📺: ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/IdAmyhxWXx
In women's fashion, Sakkari showed off her abs in an Adidas crop top. It’s not the first time the Greek has rocked a short shirt on the court, but it definitely stood out. A fashion shoutout goes to Donna Vekic, who revealed an all-pink look with her new Uomo Sport women’s line.
Universal Tennis INSIGHTS has been there every step of the way this week, offering analytics and predictions for every match. The tool can also help gauge favorites by offering percentage odds for who might win.
Here are the latest favorites:
Men's Top 3
- Novak Djokovic - 22%
- Holger Rune - 16%
- Stefanos Tsitsipas - 14%
Women's Top 3
- Jessica Pegula - 26%
- Elena Rybakina - 18%
- Caroline Garcia - 16%
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9:00 a.m. EST, January 23, 2023.