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Women's seeds tumble at Open as Medvedev faces Kyrgios test

AFP
AFP
 2022-01-20
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Spain's Garbine Muguruza suffered a surprise defeat /AFP

Garbine Muguruza was among several seeds to fall on a day of shocks at the Australian Open on Thursday ahead of men's title favourite Daniil Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios squaring off in a blockbuster encounter.

Third seed Muguruza and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit both suffered second-round upsets in straight sets, opening up the bottom half of the women's draw.

WTA Finals winner Muguruza struggled with her serve against 61st-ranked veteran Alize Cornet, losing 6-3, 6-3 in 1hr 27min.

"I am a bit of a dinosaur on the tour," said Cornet, who turns 32 on Saturday. "I've been there for 16 years so I have played a lot of matches and faced a lot of situations that I have overcome."

Kontaveit, seen by many as a serious title contender after a breakout 2021, committed 27 unforced errors as she was stunned 6-2, 6-4 by fast-rising Danish teenager Clara Tauson.

But second seed Aryna Sabalenka lives to fight another day, just, after coming from a set down for the second successive match to beat China's world number 100 Wang Xinyu.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas is chasing a first Grand Slam title /AFP

The Belarusian has struggled with her serve since arriving in Australia and totted up 19 double faults -- six in the opening game alone -- before managing to drag herself through 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

In the men's draw, Australian wildcard Chris O'Connell continued the day of upsets with a straight-sets win over 13th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-4.

World number 175 O'Connell, who has reached the third round of a Slam for the first time, faces America's Maxime Cressy.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas -- chasing a first major title -- avoided the carnage but did not have it all his own way in a 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4 win over former world number one junior Sebastian Baez of Argentina.

"I'm glad I overcame that obstacle today. Lots of fighting, a little bit of swearing, but I'm glad to be in the third round," said Tsitsipas.

- Murray out -

Also safely into round three is fifth seed Andrey Rublev, who will now face Marin Cilic, the 27th seed from Croatia who lost the 2018 Australian Open final to Roger Federer. Canada's ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime also won.

But it was the end of the road for Andy Murray, who turned back the clock in typically combative style for his first win at the Australian Open since 2017 over five gruelling sets but had nothing left in the tank as he fell to Japan's Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Murray, who had career-saving hip surgery in 2019, was leaden-footed and cut a frustrated figure at times, even changing his shoes in a fruitless to stem the tide.

World number two Medvedev was later facing ultimate showman Kyrgios in a night match on Rod Laver Arena that could play a big part in shaping the destiny of this year's title.

With Novak Djokovic kicked out of Australia and Federer absent because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old US Open champion Medvedev -- but first he has to get past Kyrgios and the raucous antics of his legion of home fans.

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Nick Kyrgios pulled out his full bag of tricks in the first round against Liam Broady, including a trademark 'tweener' /AFP

"It's definitely going to be not easy against the crowd. He's going to try to pump himself up, he likes to play big names," said Medvedev, who will take on Kyrgios in a prime-time evening match.

Kyrgios said he was looking forward to locking horns again with Medvedev, who he beat in Rome and Washington three years ago.

"It's going to be a hell of an experience for me. He's probably the best player in the world at the moment," said Kyrgios.

Emma Raducanu was looking to repeat the resurgent form that saw her power past Sloane Stephens when she plays Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.

A win for Raducanu, who has Romanian heritage, could set up a potential third-round clash against former world number one Simona Halep.

Teenager Raducanu, the US Open champion, idolised Romania's Halep when she was growing up.

The two will clash for the first time if they both win, with Halep having a late-night clash against Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil.

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