Australian Open Favorites Muguruza and Kontaveit Fall as Dark Horses Advance

Australian Open Favorites Muguruza and Kontaveit Fall as Dark Horses Advance

4 min read

The third round is set Down Under and the biggest scalp of the tournament belongs to Alize Cornet (UTR Rating 12.73). The 31-year-old Frenchwoman ousted third seed Garbine Muguruza (12.91), and more top seeds could fall in the next 48 hours. On the men's side, Andy Murray (15.46) was far from a seed, and yet his lopsided loss to qualifier Taro Daniel (14.94) was still a big surprise.

Let's take a look at who could be heading into the round of 16 with assistance from Universal Tennis INSIGHTS.

Cornet Dismisses Muguruza

Cornet is no stranger to taking out tournament favorites in Grand Slams. This is the same woman who beat a top-seeded Serena Williams in the third round of Wimbledon in 2014. Going into her clash with Muguruza, INSIGHTS had given Cornet a respectable 41% chance and she delivered with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

"I don't know how many years I have left," the 31-year-old said after the match. "Today was a perfect gift I could give myself and I really hope the journey's going to go even farther for me."



Cornet will take a 63% chance of winning into her match with No. 29 seed Tamara Zidansek (12.45). Cornet has been to the fourth round of every major but never farther, and could break the Open Era for consecutive major appearances: she's at an astounding 60 in a row after playing every major since the 2007 Australian Open.

Zidansek, a 24-year-old from Slovenia, made a surprise run to the semifinals of Roland Garros last year. Cornet and Zidansek have never played before. INSIGHTS' head-to-head tool shows Cornet with the higher three-month trending UTR Rating, but Zidansek has the better recent win-loss record and their record versus common opponents is very similar.

INSIGHTS Predicts Next Women's Matches to Watch

No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka (13.10) is the next high seed at risk, per INSIGHTS. The Belarusian needed three sets to get past Xinyu Wang (12.26) and will have her hands full against Olympic silver medalist and No. 31 seed Marketa Vondrousova (13.09). INSIGHTS is calling a tight one with Sabalenka having the slightest advantage at 53%. The 23-year-old has been almost completely without a serve: In four matches in 2022, she has hit 70 double faults.

"I already had a lot of experience playing without the serve and I kept telling myself, 'You have enough shots to still win the match, even if you cannot serve'", Sabalenka said. "So I think this kind of mentality helped me to stay in the game and actually find my serve.”

The two big hitters have faced off four times in their career with Sabalenka winning the most recent encounter, in Miami last year. Sabalenka has the higher overall UTR Rating by the tiniest of margins (0.01) and better win-loss record (56-21 to 38-21). Voundrousva's three-month trending UTR Rating tells a different story: She's a 13.06 compared to Sabalenka's 12.92.

Young Dane Clara Tauson (12.77) got one of the other big scalps of the tournament by ousting INSIGHTS favorite No. 6 seed Anett Kontaveit (13.29). Tauson, who's just 19, made it look easy with a 6-2, 6-4 win. Next up, she'll face No. 27 seed Danielle Collins (12.94), with INSIGHTS giving her 39% odds.



“When you play really good, you don't feel like you're playing amazing,” Tauson said in press. “But everything is just going how you want it. In my mind, that's just how I want to play every time.”

INSIGHTS Predicts Next Men's Matches to Watch

On the men's side, a new name is guaranteed to make his fourth-round debut. Wild card Christopher O’Connell (15.07) continued his dream run by knocking out No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman (15.59), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-4. The 27-year-old is into his first Grand Slam third round and faces unseeded Maxime Cressy (15.04) next.

Universal Tennis fans may have heard of O'Connell before this big breakthrough as he played in a couple of UTR Pro Series events in 2020 in Australia. Per INSIGHTS, he has a 52% of making it to the fourth round, which is too close to truly predict. Cressy is ranked higher, but O'Connell has a slight edge in UTR Ratings. They've never played each other before.



Other key matches to keep an eye on include No. 20 Taylor Fritz (15.50) battling against No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut (15.40) and No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev (15.69) taking on No. 27 Marin Cilic (15.52).

Fritz needed just three sets to get past his friend and compatriot Frances Tiafoe (15.47) and has a 56% chance of upsetting Bautista Agut. Fritz's trending UTR Rating is higher than his overall UTR Rating at 15.64 compared to Bautista Agut's 15.32. In six meetings, Fritz has beaten the 33-year-old Spaniard just once though their only recent meeting was on clay (Bautista Agut's preferred surface) in Monte Carlo last year.

Taylor Fritz has never been beyond the third round of a major. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)

As for Rublev, the Russian has a possible challenge ahead of him in 2014 US Open champion Cilic. INSIGHTS is giving the favorable odds to Rublev at 59% with two wins against the Croatian in 2021. Cilic's experience is nothing to sleep on as he's also appeared in two Grand Slam finals, including the Australian Open in 2018. Rublev's best performance has been the quarterfinals (four times).

Honorable Mention

Let's take a moment to talk about Benoit Paire (14.83) and his 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(2) win over No. 26 seed Grigor Dimitrov (15.61). Dimitrov has been playing solid tennis and was heavily favored to win, while Paire is as unpredictable as they come. It marks the biggest upset of the men's draw per UTR Rating. The 32-year-old Frenchman faces an even bigger hurdle in No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas (15.97) next.


Stay tuned for more from INSIGHTS, and to learn more about Universal Tennis, click here.

•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 a.m. EST, Jan. 20, 2022.

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