July 25th, 2024

Rublev survives a tough 5-setter, Sinner wins opener at the Australian Open

By John Pye, The Associated Press on January 14, 2024.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Andrey Rublev felt like his Australian Open first-round match against Thiago Seyboth Wild was going to end just like his friend Daniil Medvedev’s did at the French Open last year against the clean-hitting Brazilian.

After wasting four match points in the 12th game of the fifth set, Rublev fell behind 5-2 in the match tiebreaker before regaining his composure, winning eight of the next nine points and clinching a 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory.

He slumped to the ground, then got up quickly, embraced Seyboth Wild, who was making his debut in the Australian Open main draw, and roared triumphantly.

Seyboth Wild upset major winner Medvedev in the first round at Roland Garros last year and Rublev admitted he felt the momentum going the same way before he decided to relax and go for broke.

“For sure, I will not forget this one,” the fifth-seeded Rublev said. “Thiago is a super dangerous player. Super talented. He’s hitting so hard, so clean.

“Fifth set, I had so many opportunities. I thought for sure we’re going to see the same as Daniil in Roland Garros.”

Rublev, who won a title in Hong Kong to start the year, is a nine-time quarterfinalist at Grand Slams and hoping to go better this time.

Jannik Sinner had the Carota Boys in the crowd and red-white-and-green flags flying in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena, helping Italy’s Davis Cup star feel right at home.

Sinner had a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 first-round win over No. 59-ranked Botic van de Zandschulp, needing 2 1/2 hours to complete his first win since a memorable November when he twice beat Novak Djokovic and won the Davis Cup.

“Means a lot to me to start off with a win,” fourth-seeded Sinner said in a post-match TV interview as a half-dozen fans dressed in carrot costumes cheered from the stands. “Physically I feel good. I’m here in good shape. I think I can be happy for today.”

Sinner said he was surprised to see the Carota Boys in the crowd.

“It’s nice to see them in the stands,” he said. “They are getting more famous than I am, slowly. Maybe this support gives me in the key moments this extra belief, maybe. Who knows? Let’s see how it goes here. But I’m happy that they are here.”

Marin Cilic, the runner-up in 2018, was beaten 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 by Fabian Marozsan.

The season’s first major is being played over 15 days – the first round is split over three days – and starting on a Sunday for the time.

Women’s eighth seed Maria Sakkari admitted her relief after she beat Nao Hibino of Japan 6-4, 6-1, her first Grand Slam win since last year’s Australian Open.

“I lost three first rounds in my last three Grand Slams,” she said. “For me, it was a very difficult match today emotionally. I’m happy I managed to do the job right and play a good second set.”

Also advancing were 2021 U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, who beat 17-year-old Sara Bejlek 7-6 (5), 6-2 and No. 9 Barbora Krejcikova, who rallied from a set and a break down to beat Mai Hontama 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

“It wasn’t a perfect match, but I’m just glad that I was able to fight through some of the tough moments that I encountered in the first set and just kept fighting,” said Fernandez, who had a first-round loss at last year’s U.S. Open. “I think it was a good first round, get a feel of the court, get a feel of the tournament, and I can just improve from there.”

Teenager Brenda Fruhvirtova recorded her first Grand Slam win, the 16-year-old Czech beating Anna Bogdan 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva had a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alize Cornet, who was appearing in a women’s record 68th consecutive Grand Slam event.

Amanda Anisimova continued her comeback from a career break with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 13-seeded Liudmila Samsonova.

Novak Djokovic was set to open his bid for a record 25th Grand Slam title in the night session on Rod Laver Arena. He’s on a 28-match winning streak at Melbourne Park.

The 10-time Australian Open champion’s first-round match is against Dino Prizmic, who won the junior title at last year’s French Open.

Aryna Sabalenka was scheduled to start her title defense against Ella Seidel in the last match of the day on the main show court.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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