May 17, 2022

Daniil Medvedev wins over Australian Open fans, rolls into 4th round

View Original Notice ? Daniil Medvedev wins over Australian Open fans, rolls into 4th round

  • Daniil Medvedev takes a drink during a break in his third-round match against Botic van de Zandschulp at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Former UCLA standout Maxime Cressy plays a backhand return during his third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)

  • American Taylor Fritz reacts after defeating Roberto Bautista Agut in a third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

  • Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after defeating Benoit Paire in their third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Daniil Medvedev plays a backhand return to Botic van de Zandschulp during their third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Simona Halep reacts after defeating Danka Kovinic in their third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)

  • Aryna Sabalenka reacts during her third-round match against Marketa Vondrousova at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Alize Cornet plays a backhand return to Tamara Zidansek during their third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Alize Cornet reacts after defeating Tamara Zidansek in their third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

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By JOHN PYE AP Sports Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — As Daniil Medvedev sat courtside trying to re-hydrate during a changeover, an image of nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic flashed up in the stadium behind him.

It was in the third set Saturday, and it was like the absent No. 1 was looking over the shoulder of the player who is effectively the No. 1 seed at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

Medvedev, who lost last year’s Australian Open final to Djokovic but avenged that with a victory over the Serb for the U.S. Open title, reached the fourth round for the fourth straight year at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Botic van de Zandschulp.

The 25-year-old Russian was a conspicuous fan favorite on Margaret Court Arena, too, two days after being unsettled by the boos and jeers of a parochial crowd on Rod Laver Arena when he ended the run of mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios.

He was critical of a lack of respect in that match – mostly about the noise between first and second serves – and this time offered some relationship advice to the crowd.

“Every good relationship must have its ups and downs,” he said in his on-court TV interview, explaining that he planned to be back on court quite often in the future. “I hope it’s going to be more good times than bad times, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

Medvedev later clarified he didn’t have a problem with the Australian crowds and had been fully expecting to have them against him when he played Kyrgios – just not while he was in his service motion.

“The other night I was playing against an Australian player, very electric Australian player,” he said. “After the match, I think it was, yeah, straightaway pretty actually fun for everybody.

“That’s how I felt, and I didn’t see actually a lot of let’s say negative reactions.”

Medvedev avoided a showdown with Djokovic after the world’s top-ranked player had his visa canceled and was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.

He also avoided another match against an Australian in the fourth round when wild-card entry Chris O’Connell lost to former UCLA standout Maxime Cressy, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2.

Cressy’s win means there are two 24-year-old Americans who will be in the fourth round of a major for their first time.

No. 70-ranked Cressy, who the 2019 NCAA doubles title while at UCLA, is in his fourth Grand Slam tournament. No. 20-ranked Taylor Fritz finally made it in his 22nd attempt, with a 6-0, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, and said it “means a ton.”

“I mean, it’s huge. Like after that match I was almost close to like tearing up a bit,” said Fritz, who is from San Diego. “It seems stupid, because so many people have made the second week of Slams but it’s just, like, eluded me for so long.

“I never doubted it would happen,” he added, “but I definitely, definitely was getting sick of playing, you know, a top-four player for the opportunity every time.”

Fritz will next play fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, a runner-up at the French Open and semifinalist in Australia last year, who fended off Benoit Paire, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime progressed with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 24 Dan Evans, winning 14 of the last 16 games.

On the women’s side, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep is into Week 2 at Melbourne Park for the fifth consecutive year after a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Danka Kovinic.

She’ll be joined in the second week by second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova.

A contender for the No. 1 ranking – Sabalenka can potentially overtake Ash Barty depending on results here – the 23-year-old from Belarus admits her serve is still a work in progress.

The match started ominously when Sabalenka had two double-faults and was broken in the first game.

But unlike the previous round, when she had nine double-faults in her first two service games and 19 in the match, the semifinalist last year at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open managed to almost halve that glaring statistic.

“I’m really happy right now,” Sabalenka said, laughing, in her on-court TV interview. “Mostly I’m happy I made only 10 double-faults.”

It’s something she’ll be working on ahead of her next match against No. 115-ranked Kaia Kanepi, who has reached the quarterfinals six times at Grand Slam events – but only once since 2013 and never in Australia.

The 14th-seeded Halep had little trouble with Kovinic, a player who is ranked 98th and eliminated U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu in the previous round. This was Kovinic’s first appearance in the third round of a major.

Halep, by contrast, can count on plenty of experience in the latter stages of the sport’s biggest events. She won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019 and made it to the final of the 2018 Australian Open before losing to Caroline Wozniacki.

“I feel good, I feel more confident now because last year was a tough year,” Halep said. “So now I just enjoy playing tennis, I’m happy.”

None of the other players remaining in the women’s draw has won as many tour-level titles as Halep’s 23.

Halep’s next opponent will be Alize Cornet, who celebrated her 32nd birthday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 29 Tamara Zidansek, a 2021 French Open semifinalist.

Cornet followed up her upset of No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza by reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009.

Alize Cornet stood midcourt on Margaret Court Arena waving to the singing fans and patting her heart after her match. While the experienced French player was touched to be serenaded on her birthday, she much preferred her own gift – the shot at a Grand Slam quarterfinal in what could be her last year on the tour.

Cornet, whose match lasted 2 hours, 43 minutes on the hottest day of the tournament so far, recalled how she had a match point before losing to eventual finalist Dinara Safina of Russia the last time she was in the fourth round.

“I think that’s why we all keep playing and keep pushing ourselves because we’re so addicted to these feelings, this joy right after the match point,” Cornet said. “It’s really amazing. To start the year this way definitely makes me want to play some more tennis.”

In another third-round match ending Saturday afternoon, 27th-seeded American Danielle Collins, a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Virginia, rallied from a set and a break down to beat 19-year-old Clara Tauson, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Collins will next meet No. 19 Elise Mertens, who advanced, 6-2, 6-2, over Zhang Shuai.

KYRGIOS CONFRONTATION

Nick Kyrgios claimed he was threatened in the players’ gym at Melbourne Park after he and Thanasi Kokkinakis upset top-seeded Croatian pair Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in a second-round doubles match in front of a raucous home crowd on Friday.

The Australians won the match, 7-6 (8), 6-3, and the teams shook hands at the net.

The trouble started, according to Kyrgios, when a member of the support team approached him after the match.

“Just letting you know after yesterday’s chop fest in doubles my opponent’s coach and trainer proceeded to threaten to fight in the players gym … tennis is a soft soft sport … all because I moved and hit them with a tennis ball,” Kyrgios wrote Saturday on Twitter.

Kokkinakis, describing it in a social media post, said “That was crazy!!” and joked about it being like UFC.

SWEET DREAMS

What was the first priority for Adrian Mannarino ahead of his fourth-round match against 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal?

Sleep.

The French left-hander didn’t get to bed until almost dawn on Saturday after a late victory ensured his best Grand Slam result.

The No. 69-ranked Mannarino finished off his 4-hour, 38-minute third-round 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 18-seeded Aslan Karatsev, the 2021 Australian Open semifinalist, at 2:33 a.m. local time in Melbourne.

“I don’t feel good to be honest. I’m kind of exhausted right now, but it was cool,” Mannarino said in a post-match interview. “I was so focused on what I had to do. I was not thinking about the fact I was tired. I was like, ‘OK, go get the next point.’”

Even at the hour it finished, there were still some vocal fans at Margaret Court Arena.

“The crowd was cool. Some people had a couple of drinks, I guess, and they were commentating,” Mannarino noted.

Nadal advanced with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win over another Russian, No. 28 Karen Khachanov, around midnight on Friday on Rod Laver Arena.

“It’s 3 a.m. I don’t really care about who I’m playing next,” Mannarino said. “Is the last thing I’m going to think about. I just want to enjoy the moment right now.”

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