Hopes And Broken Dreams
Today was the first day of the third round at the Australian Open and surprises are coming every day. Some players are happy knowing they got to live another day and qualify for the next round, that will most likely take them closer to the title, while others are packing their bags and preparing to go home.
This is how things work in every tournament and you have to be very good to be among those always qualifying for the next round, till there are no more rounds.
For some reason I see this edition of the Australian Open different from the other ones. So far I've seen some very tough matches that you don't see every day, which put a few players to the test.
Let's start with the one between Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Felix Auger Aliassime. If you have been following the tournament, you already know why. If not, let me tell you the reason. At first it may look strange as none of the players are in the top 10, but that doesn't count in this case. What counts is the quality of the game.
These 21, 22 year old guys played five sets yesterday and each set ended in tie-break. I don't remember watching a similar match ever as this is very rare. When they play five sets, some players usually lose steam occasionally and lose some sets to zero or two for example, but not these two.
These type of matches are the most entertaining in my opinion, that keep viewers on their toes till the last minute and that's what happened here. I was rooting for both of them, which is stupid obviously as only one can win and that was Felix Auger Aliassime this time. I'm really proud of him as he's holding up beautifully. The level of progress this young Canadian has made is unimaginable. He has gone from having no self confidence at all to not being afraid of anyone. Last year he could not find his place in any tournament, this year I can see him winning a couple.
Another match that I'd like to highlight was between Sebastian Baez and Stefanos Tsitsipas. I've been watching the major tournaments for a few years but have never heard of Sebastian Baez till now. He's pretty new in the big league, but not a rookie in tennis. I was expecting him to struggle and drag himself through the first three sets before he goes home, but that's not what happened.
Sebastian Baez showed the Greek what he's capable of, right in the first set, which ended in a tie-break. He lost the tie-break unfortunately, but then won the second set. The next two sets were just as spectacular as the first two, even though Sebastian Baez was not the one winning them.
I'm not sure what Tsitsipas was expecting for before the match, whether he knew anything about the Argentinian player as they have never met officially before, but Baez made the Greek work for the victory. It wasn't as easy as a walk in the park.
What is interesting about Sebastian Baez is that he's from Argentina, just like Diego Schwartzman and the same height, which is 1.70m. Being 1.70m in a world where most of the players are well over 1.90m is a huge challenge, that's why I admire them both. I guess they have to work harder to get the same results.
The next amazing match happened this morning, between the Spanish Carlos Alcaraz Garfia and the Italian Matteo Berrettini. For those who are familiar with the players it was clear from the beginning that it will be an interesting one from the beginning to the end.
Carlos Alcaraz Garfia has been mentioned by the press as the next Nadal, because he's also Spanish and very talented. I'm always taking these predictions with a pinch of salt as it takes a lot for one to get to the top, it's a long road and not everyone can get there. I've seen Alcaraz Garfia several times with the best players and now I can say he has a high chance of becoming No. 1 in a few years.
He's almost 19 but has achieved much more than some in their lifetime. After the match, Berrettini said at the press conference that at Garfia's age he didn't even have ATP points. The Spanish is No. 31 at the moment, but I'm sure the end of the year will find him at a much higher place.
Today he has confirmed once again how talented he is. They needed 5 sets to decide who is going t qualify for the next round and those 5 sets were anything but easy. Two ended in tie-break, among which the last one as well, that made the whole show much more interesting. I can't imagine Berrettini being forced to stay focused till the last minute and consider losing as it was a high possibility for that. I guess pressure had an effect on the Spanish, he doesn't have as much experience as the Italian at this level, but not for long. I really respect him for how he handles himself on the court and am looking forward to seeing him at the top of the list.
Reilly Opelka had a good year in 2021 and I see him ascending. He's not like any other players as his height makes him a target in some ways. At 2.11 m he moves in a different way on the court and therefore has a different playing style. Some players know how to use that in their advantage.
Today he got to meet the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who was better seeded than the American, which sometimes doesn't matter. However, Denis knew how to play so he can get the victory and he did indeed. Opelka managed to win the second set, but could not face the pressure the Canadian put him through.
They started out at high intensity, sending the first set to a tie-break, that ended in favor of Denis Shapovalov. Opelka was able to win the second set to 6 - 4. At this point I was hoping to see this kind of intensity in the game, but Opelka kind of lost momentum and let Shapovalov dominate the game. The American is 24 now, so he's still young, has a good few years in tennis and I'm curious to see how high he can get on the list.
Unfortunately Gaël Monfils was able to win against Cristian Garín, who's one of my favorites and would have loved to see him play with higher ranking players later in the tournament. That's not going to happen because he lost the tie-break at the end of the first set and then lost the next two sets to 6 - 1 and 6 - 3. It came as a surprise as Gaël Monfils is known to have oscillating performances, but it looks like he was in a good mood today.
From now on the tournament is going to be more intense as only the best are still in the game. We're going to see some intense matches which I'm looking forward to. The big question is if Nadal will be able to win his 21th Grand Slam title or not. My bet is he's not ready yet, but he may prove me otherwise. Let's see.