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The 2023 Australian Open: 1st Round to Quarterfinals

The 2023 Australian Open started out like any other Grand Slam, with the exception being that this is the first grand slam since the great Roger Federer, a six-time champion in the land down under, retired. 

The seeding of the tournament also may have confused a great many people, since the No. 1 seed and 2022 US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz withdrew only days before the tournament. This left the 22-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal with the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament. The Spaniard was definitely favored to go far this tournament; however, he had not done well his last two grand slam tournaments, with him being forced to pull out of Wimbledon due to an abdominal tear and him losing to the American Francis Tiafoe in the Round of 16 at the 2022 US Open.

The No. 2 seed is Casper Ruud, who was the runner up to Rafael Nadal at the 2022 French Open and the runner up to Carlos Alcaraz at the 2022 US Open. The fast Australian courts are not his favorite surface to play on, so the Norwegian was not favored to perform well this year at the Australian Open, under the standards of being the No. 2 seed.

The No. 3 seed is Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek player had a poor year by his standards, winning only one Masters 1000 at Monte Carlo and losing to Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Italian Open and in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters. The Australian Open has been a very strong tournament for him in the past, with him making the semi-finals in three out of the last five years. The No. 3 seed is expected to also go far this year.

The No. 4 seed is Novak Djokovic; the nine-time Australian Open winner had a rocky 2022 by his standards, winning only one grand slam, Wimbledon, one Masters 1000, Rome and the ATP Finals. He was the favorite of this tournament and is going into the tournament on a 22-game winning streak at the grand slam. He is predicted to increase that winning streak to 28 by the end of the tournament. Finally, the No. 5 seed is Andre Rublev. The Russian has had a rocky 2022, winning zero major tournaments. His game style does favor the fast-paced Australian hard courts and was definitely favored to make the quarterfinals at least. 

Starting with the first round, no major upsets occurred, but there were notable matches. One was Mackenzie McDonald outlasting his fellow countryman Brandon Nakashima in a five-set duel 7-6, 7-6, 1-6, 6-7, 6-4. Another one was local hero and wildcard Alexei Popyrin beating Chun-Hsin Tseng in five as well 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1. Andy Murray shocked everyone when he took down the 13th seed Mateo Berrettini in five 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7, 7-6. The favorite Djokovic breezed by Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.

Moving onto the second round, a major upset happened with No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal losing to Mackenzie McDonald in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. The Spaniard was suffering from injury the entire match and decided to play on instead of retiring. The other upset of the round occurred when American Michael Mmoh defeated 2020 semi-finalist and former No. 2 in the world Alexander Zverev in four sets 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. The German was coming off of a severe foot injury, when he tore multiple ligaments in his right foot when playing Rafael Nadal in the 2022 French Open. He is one of the most talented players in the world and I expect that in the following months he will return to his full capabilities. Hubert Hurkacz defeated the Italian Lorenzo Sonego in five: 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Another big upset occurred this round with the Australian Alexei Popyrin defeating the No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz in five 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2. The most notable match of the round occurred when none other than Andy Murray defeated Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, coming back from two sets to love to win in five gruelling sets 4-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 7-5. The match was only eight minutes short of Djokovic and Nadal’s. Again, Djokovic bested his opponent; however, he dropped a set to the Frenchman Enzo Couacaud, beating him 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, 6-0. The third round had two major upsets: Jiri Lehecka beating Cameron Norrie, the 11th seed in five 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to make it into the fourth round and the 2022 Australian Open Finalist, Daniil Medvedev lost to American Sebastian Korda in straight sets 7-6, 6-3, 7-6 within three rounds both of last years finalists are out. Although in my opinion this is not that surprising, with Medvedev being in and out of injury since before the 2022 French Open and Sebastian Korda has been on the rise since the 2022 Miami Open; out of all the Americans, Korda is the one to look at going forward.

Two other notable matches occurred this round: Hubert Hurkacz defeated Denis Shapovalov in five sets 7-6, 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 and Jannik Sinner defeated Martin Fucsovics, coming back from two sets to love down, defeating him in five: 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. While neither are surprising results, what is surprising is that both Hurkacz and Sinner struggled so much in these matches. Djokovic again cleaned out the competition, beating Grigor Dimitrov in three sets, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4. The fourth round had a multitude of exciting matches, starting with Hubert Hurkacz losing to Sebastian Korda in five sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6. While this is, based on seeding, an upset, it wasn’t too surprising a result. Korda is a much more powerful baseliner and the fast court will suit his game better than Hurkacz. Andre Rublev vs. Holger Rune was a clash of giants, two players with powerful groundstrokes and killer forehands. Rublev prevailed in the end, defeating the Dane in five: 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. What really lost Rune the match was his lack of mental fortitude; the 19-year-old showed immaturity and his mental game collapsed over the arduous five setter. In a clash of freedom, the Americans Ben Shelton and J.J. Wolff went head to head, with Shelton coming out on top in five, 6-7, 6-2, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2. This was a surprising result; Ben Shelton is not someone who was expected to make it this far, let alone the quarterfinals of a grand slam. The next upset occurred when Jiri Lehecka defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime in four sets 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 7-6. This is an extremely surprising result; Felix Auger Aliassime is a powerful player, although he struggles with consistency, unfortunately. The best match of the round however was a battle of titans: Stephanos Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner, with the Greek god outlasting the Roman gladiator in five sets 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3. This isn’t too surprising a result, however at their best Sinner has the potential to beat him. He is still a young player and struggles with consistency, which is holding him back. Djokovic continues his tear by defeating the last Australian, Alex de Minaur, dropping only five games 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.

Now back to the present, this year’s Australian Open Quarterfinals is much different than previous years. Four players outside the top 25. Karen Khashenov bested Sebastian Korda; however, this was only due to an Injury that occurred in the second set, the final score was 7-6, 6-3, 3-0. This was quite a shame because Korda was one of my favorites to make it to the final. Stephanos Tsitsipas bested Lehecka in straight sets 6-3, 7-6, 6-4, which isn’t surprising, but still the Czech forced the Greek into a tiebreak in the second set. Djokovic bested the fifth seed Andre Rubelv in straight sets. While I expected the Serbian to win the match, it was surprising the ease in which he won. The fourth seed only dropped seven games, beating the Russian 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. The battle of the Americans was the longest match of the round, with Tommy Paul besting the young Shelton in four decisive sets 7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Paul has recently been playing extremely well, forcing Ruud, the eventual runner up, to five sets in the 2022 US Open and beating Rafael Nadal in the 2022 Paris Masters; however, I will be surprised if he makes it to the finals.

The semi-finals are set: Karen Khachanov vs. Stephanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic vs. Tommy Paul. The most likely final is a repeat of the 2021 French Open final between Tsitsipas and Djokovic, but as the grand slam showed, upsets happen when you least expect them.

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