Former world number one Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and Daniil Medvedev underlined his status as the man to beat on day two of the Australian Open yesterday.
After Sunday’s deportation of men’s defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic, the first Grand Slam of the year is now in full swing and eager to move on from the visa saga.
That is proving easier said than done and Tennis Australia (TA), organisers of the so-called “Happy Slam”, said in a statement yesterday that they “deeply regret the impact” it has had on the other players.
“As the Australian tennis family, we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone,” TA said, without mentioning world number one Djokovic by name.
‘Couldn’t ask for more’
If it has been a distraction for Murray, he did not show it.
The 34-year-old, there as a wildcard, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic – the Briton departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
But here he was, rolling back the years and rolling into round two. “It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray.
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favourite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal. Nadal, who is chasing a men’s record 21st Slam title, set the tone on Monday with a straight-sets romp, but Medvedev was no less emphatic in dismissing Laaksonen.
“I like to play here, I like hardcourts and I want to do better than I did last year,” said Medvedev, who was runner-up to Djokovic in 2021.
Medvedev, who conquered Djokovic in the US Open final in September to win his maiden Grand Slam crown, has cut a confident figure and said in the build-up that he feared nobody.
Stefanos Tsitsipas also eased past practice partner Mikael Ymer into the second round - but admitted he must be more “daring” as he pursues his first Grand Slam title.
The Greek world number four always had the measure of the 86th-ranked Swede, polishing off a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win in 2hr 10 min in a night match on Rod Laver Arena.
It set up a second-round encounter with Argentina’s Sebastian Baez.
Tsitsipas broke Ymer’s service seven times, lost his own twice and hit a total of 30 winners, while committing 38 unforced errors.
“There were a lot of rallies, a lot of ball exchanges, he gave me a hard time, he was going after every single ball and stayed in the match for as long as he could,” Tsitsipas said on court.
“I will be trying to decrease the amount of unforced errors, I think I had a few more than I usually have.
“I’ll be trying to keep the consistency and trying to attack a bit more, be a bit more daring in certain moments.”
Tsitsipas, a two-time semi-finalist in Melbourne, lost to Novak Djokovic in last year’s French Open final after leading by two sets.
The first Greek player to reach a Grand Slam final, Tsitsipas holds the distinction of beating both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on his way to his semi-final appearances at the Australian Open.
He admitted at this month’s ATP Cup in Sydney that he was struggling with elbow pain, which was affecting his serve in his first tournament since going under the knife in late November.
But he showed little effects of the injury during his first match at the Australian Open.
It was the second straight year Tsitsipas had faced his long-time friend and occasional practice partner Ymer in Melbourne.
“We have played together in juniors for many, many years, so we know each other since the age of 10,” he said.
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