UPDATE FROM DOWN UNDER
Gauff Gets Rematch Against World No.3 and Defending Champ Naomi Osaka Next
The heat is on in Melbourne, where Citi Open’s brightest stars are off to a blazing start at the 2020 Australian Open Tennis Championships.
Reigning Citi Open doubles champ and current singles world No.67 Coco Gauff stole the spotlight on Wednesday. In front of a packed house inside Melbourne Arena, the 15-year-old American sensation hit a second, second serve (after a previous let) and charged into the net behind a deep, slice approach shot. When her opponent netted her pass, the arena erupted, as Gauff passed her first formidable test of 2020, rebounding from a set down and a break in the third to triumph over Romanian world No.74 Sorana Cirstea, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
"I was just trying to stay calm, mostly, and stay positive,” said Gauff in her post-match press conference. “I've always believed that I can come back, regardless of the score. I kind of felt the momentum changing. I knew I had to keep pressing.”
The win comes on the heels of another promising win over former world No.1 and two-time Australian Open finalist Venus Williams, 7-6(5), 6-3, in the first round. It was Gauff’s second win over Williams, who first stunned the 7-time Grand Slam champ, and greater tennis establishment, in the first round of Wimbledon last summer, 6-4, 6-4.
“I definitely was more confident this time,” said Gauff, after her win over Williams. “I think I’m now used to playing on big courts. The size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time. I feel like my mindset has changed since the US Open. I did have three good matches, at both the US Open and Wimbledon.”
The former No.1 put up a formidable fight, despite less than ideal conditions. Williams was forced to pull out of all pre-Melbourne events, due to a hip injury. In fact, it was her first tour match since October. But Gauff, who is the youngest player in the draw and won her maiden WTA title in Linz the same month, had no mercy on Williams, who she has often called her childhood hero.
Next up, Gauff faces perhaps her closest mentor on tour, world No.3 and defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, for the second straight major. The pair faced off for the first time at the US Open in the same round last summer. Osaka won the encounter, which made headlines around the world for an emotional post-match scene that saw both players interviewed on court.
Medvedev Tops Tiafoe & Plays Tonight!
On the men’s side, world No.4 and 2019 Citi Open finalist Daniil Medvedev was forced to work hard for his first-round win. The Russian was pushed to four sets by DC phenom and current world No.50 Frances Tiafoe, before ultimately prevailing, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. The Russian, who fell to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the Round of 16 last year, broke serve on nine occasions and hit 42 winners throughout his opening match in Rod Laver Arena.
Medvedev is aiming to capture his first Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park, following his sensational run to the US Open final last year, when he lost to world No.1 Rafael Nadal.
“It felt different because that's the first time in my life I was stepping out on the centre court in the first round of a Grand Slam as a favourite,” said Medvedev.
With his first round win under his belt, Medvedev improves to a 5-1 record this year. The No.4 seed won four of his five matches for Team Russia at the inaugural ATP Cup earlier this month.
“[I am] happy with the win because that's most important. First round of a Grand Slam, never easy,” said Medvedev. “Sometimes the most important [thing] is to really not show some crazy level or crazy shots, but just to win the match, get into the tournament. It was a tough match against Frances, but happy to win it in four sets without playing five hours.”
Tonight, Medvedev will meet qualifier Pedro Martinez Portero for a spot in the third round, second up on Margaret Court Arena, around 8:30 p.m. EST. The Spaniard recorded his first tour-level victory to reach the second round, beating Dominik Koepfer 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.
Kyrgios Faces Simon in Second Round
Citi Open champion Nick Kyrgios also advanced in men’s singles with little resistance. The Australian world No. 26 defeated Italian Lorenzo Sonego, 6-2, 7-6(3), 7-6(1), to advance to the second round of his home Slam for the seventh time.
“I was really excited to get out here,” Kyrgios told former world No.1 John McEnroe in a post-match interview. “I wanted to put on a good performance. I knew it was going to be tough, because I’d played him once before [at 2019 Cincinnati]. This is one of my favourite courts in the world and I feel super comfortable here. I had great support from fans and I’m ready to go again. The ATP Cup was great preparation, I feel good, but I’m not looking forward in the draw.”
Next up, Kyrgios faces world No.61 Gilles Simon of France, who beat Pablos Cuevas, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, in his opening match. The pair take center stage in Melbourne Arena on Thursday, around 3 a.m. EST.
Kyrgios won their sole prior encounter in the Round of 32 at the 2019 Citi Open, on his way to winning the title. Should the Aussie advance, he could potentially face Russian world No.17 Karen Khachanov in the third and his favorite ATP rival, world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the Round of 16, respectively.
Tsitsipas Cruises Past Caruso & Kohlscreiber
Elsewhere, two-time Citi Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised past Salvatore Caruso, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3, in his opening round match. The world No.6 lost just nine points in the first set and won 33 of his 36 first-service points (92 percent) overall, and closed out the match with his eighth and final ace.
Tsitsipas aims to win his first major in Melbourne, after capturing the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, ending a career-best season that had started with reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at last year’s Australian Open, where he lost to Nadal.
Tsitsipas had an even easier time with his second round opponent, German world no. 79 Philipp Kohlscreiber. The former world no. 16, who reached the fourth round in Melbourne on three previous occasions (2005, 2008, 2012), withdrew ahead of the match, due to muscle sstrain.
Doubles Down Under!
Bob & Mike Bryan, Coco Gauff & Caty McNally Fan Favorites in Melbourne
Few would argue, Bob and Mike Bryan are the sentimental favorites in Melbourne this year. Perhaps the most famous twins in the history of sport, the Bryan Brothers, as they have been known throughout their long and illustrious career, have won the Australian Open six times, more than any other Slam, and have broken all kinds of records over the course of their 22 years on the men’s doubles tour. But this will be their last trip Down Under in pursuit of the Australian Open.
The Bryans announced they will retire from professional tennis after the 2020 US Open.
“This is our last time here. We're going to miss this place,” said Mike. “This has been our most successful Slam. So we're going to try to soak it in, no expectations.”
In addition to their six Australian Open titles, the Bryans have won two Roland Garros, three Wimbledon, and five US Open titles, to go along with an Olympic gold medal and well over 100 men’s doubles titles, including four at the Citi Open.
“We're all honoured to be at this tournament,” Bob Bryan said. “We're just going to give it one last run.”
Seeded No.13 at this year’s tournament, the Bryans last won a Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open and won their last title at any level nine months ago at the Miami Open. They debated playing for longer, as other doubles players, including then-46-year-old Daniel Nestor, have done, but today the 41-year-old Bryans are content with their decision.
“[Nestor] was pushing the bar way out there, which was scary. I would say 10, 15 years ago, 35 was ancient," said Bob. “With the training, everything, the ages are getting up there quick. We didn't want to play until we were irrelevant. I don't think Mike or I want to play on fumes, just to be out there. We still feel like we can contend for the big titles.
“It was a very tough decision. Tennis is our life. We both love travelling the world and doing this together. But we want to go out with a little kick, not be limping around.”
The brothers survived a first round scare against doubles veteran Rohan Bopanna and Yasutaka Uchiyama. After dropping the second set, they prevailed without much resistance in the third, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The Bryans now await the winners of Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul and Juan Sebastián Cabal and Jaume Munar’s first round match in the bottom section of the draw
In the same section, DC star Frances Tiafoe will team up with Frenchman Ugo Humbert to take on French duo Grégoire Barrère and Adrian Mannarino in their opening match.
McCoco is Back!
In women’s doubles, defending Citi Open champs Coco Gauff and Caty McNally will team up again in Australia. The teen stars, who won their maiden WTA doubles title in DC last summer, face Jil Teichmann and Karolína Muchová in their opening round match in the bottom section of the draw.
McNally, who reached the semifinals in singles in DC last summer, ousted former US Open champ and Aussie favorite Sam Stosur, 6-1, 6-4, before falling to world No.40 Zhang Shuai of China, 6-2, 6-4, in the second round.