Tennis

Tennis is a racquet sport that can be played individually against a single opponent (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player uses a racquet that is strung with cord to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over or around a net and into the opponent's court.

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Before each day's play at the Australian Open, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Kyrgios said he had fun in his only previous meeting with Tsonga, in Marseille last year, despite the fact that it ended in a three-set defeat. The 22-year-old Aussie grew up loving the 32-year-old Frenchman’s flamboyant, above-the-rim style of play, and you can see a lot of that style in the way Kyrgios approaches the game. Put the two together, and you have the makings of an explosive night match in Laver.
As for who will win it, Kyrgios is at home, is coming off a tournament win in Brisbane and seems to be in a positive frame of mind—at the moment. But Tsonga is coming off an electrifying comeback win over Denis Shapovalov from 2-5 down in the fifth. By the end, he was playing unstoppable tennis. With Jo, though, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be unstoppable again. Winner: Kyrgios
Tennis Channel Live on what's next for Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov:
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Andrey Rublev
Was Dimitrov’s brush with disaster against Mackenzie McDonald a wake-up call or a death knell? If he has designs on the title here, Dimitrov shouldn’t be forced to go deep into a fifth set to scratch his way past the world No. 186. But at the same time, scratching through on off days is something that Grand Slam title winners must do every now and then.
What we know for certain is that Dimitrov will need to play better from the start against Rublev, who has recorded wins over two quality veterans, David Ferrer and Marcos Baghdatis, in his first two matches in Melbourne. More ominously for Dimitrov, the hard-hitting 20-year-old beat him in straight sets, in their only meeting, at the US Open last year. Winner: Rublev
Elina Svitolina vs. Marta Kostyuk
In this intra-national battle of Ukrainians, Svitolina is the heavy favorite. She’s ranked No. 6 and is the choice of many—including myself—to win the tournament. Kostyuk, by contrast, is 15 years old and ranked 521st. But the fact that she’s the youngest player to reach the third round of a major in this century tells you that she possesses special talent.
Watching her first two matches in Melbourne, it was hard to tell much difference between Kostyuk and the veteran pros that surrounded her; she can, if nothing else, rip a forehand with anyone. Svitolina, meanwhile, lost her forehand somewhere along the way during her slump-shouldered three-set win over Katerina Siniakova on Wednesday. She’ll need to find it again soon. Winner: Svitolina
Read Joel Drucker and Nina Pantic on TENNIS.com as they report from the Australian Open, and watch them each day on The Daily Mix:
JANUARY: THIS MONTH ON TENNIS CHANNEL PLUS
NEW SEASON, MORE TENNIS! Get Tennis Channel Plus now at BuyTCPlus.com
A LOT of tennis action will be played on Tennis Channel Plus from January through June
Don't miss out on the coverage of the Australian Open over the next two weeks!

“It’s a dry heat, though”: These are the calming words we hear whenever the temperatures soar at the Australian Open. And it’s true, when you’re walking around in Melbourne, 100 degrees can feel less oppressive than, say, 90 degrees in muggy New York City.
But I wouldn’t recommend trying to tell that to the players who had to run around—rather than walk around—in that 100-degree heat on Thursday. Whether it’s beaming through dry air or humid air, the sun has it’s own, special, searing brutality Down Under. Last year at the US Open, I watched Gael Monfils survive five long sets on a hot day without much trouble; yesterday, after a set and a half against Novak Djokovic, he could barely stand up.
According to many of the players, it’s the suddenness of Australian heat that makes it particularly difficult to deal with. The weather in coastal Melbourne changes from one day to the next; this tournament began with temperatures in the 60s. The event also starts just two weeks after the players have finished their off-seasons. By the time the US Open rolls around in August, they’ve been on tour for eight months, and have had a chance to acclimate themselves to America’s swampy summer. Maybe, in light of this difference, the Australian Open should lower the heat-index threshold it uses to determine when it’s too dangerous to play.
Still, not everyone wilted on Thursday; here’s a look at three players, each a surprise in his or her way, whose games soared with the temperatures.
Djokovic's match point against Monfils:
The Ways of Su-Wei Hsieh
Garbiñe Muguruza’s coach, Sam Sumyk, looked a little more concerned than usual in the early stages of his player’s second-round match against Su-Wei Hsieh. He knows how to spot an off day from Muguruza from a mile away, and the scoreline—she fell behind 2-5 in the first set—indicated that this had the makings of a very off day.
The problem wasn’t so much how Muguruza was hitting the ball. It was how she was reading, and misreading, her opponent. Muguruza was caught behind the baseline when Hsieh hit a drop shot; she was caught moving forward when Hsieh cracked a backhand hard and deep; she guessed crosscourt when Hsieh went down the line; and she was hardly ready for the number of side-spinning, two-handed slice forehands that Hsieh threw at her. Who would be?
Hsieh, a 32-year-old from Taiwan currently ranked 88th in singles, has one of the most unusual, unintimidating and sporadically magical games in tennis. In between points, she tip-toes across the court, and during points she hardly seems to move her feet at all—for her, the game is all in the hands, in the timing, in the moment of contact. A former No. 1 player and Wimbledon champion in doubles, her compact strokes allow her to do anything with the ball and redirect anything her opponent sends her way.
Against Muguruza, Hsieh went up 3-0 in the crucial first-set tiebreaker with three entirely different shots: She began with a drop-volley winner, followed it with a hard-hit backhand down the line for another winner, then drew an error with one of those blithely side-spun two-handed forehands. Every time Hsieh hit the ball, Muguruza had to take a second to figure out exactly what was coming toward her before she could react.
As for her strategy, Su-Wei got a few tips from a friend.
“Hmm,” she said when she was asked what her plan was against Muguruza, “today I tried to be hitting the ball a little bit harder, because my girlfriend told me, ‘Oh, she’s hitting the ball very heavy.’ I say, OK, I gonna try to don’t let her destroy me on the court.”
As for the heat, she had a plan.
“I know the weather is going to be a little bit tough today,” she said after her 7-6 (1), 6-4 win. “...I was thinking, ‘Ah, I’m from Asia. Maybe I can handle it better than other girls.’”
So far in her career, Hsieh’s brilliance has vanished as quickly as it has appeared. She rose to No. 23 in singles in 2013, but ankle injuries have sidelined her since. And whatever tricks she can conjure with her racquet, her 70-m.p.h. second serve always puts her in danger of being blown off the court by a stronger opponent. Fortunately, that won’t happen in her next match, when she faces her fellow craftswoman—and 70-m.p.h second server, Agniezska Radwanska. That’s a match I’d sit in the sun to see.
Hsieh's match point against Muguruza:
A Retiring Kind of Guy
By now, at 36, Julien Benneteau knows how to celebrate a win. First he roars and staggers and throws off his baseball cap. Then, after he’s respectfully shaken the hand and patted the shoulder of his vanquished opponent, he blows kisses to the crowd. Finally, he walks across the court to plant a real kiss on his wife, Karen. Yesterday, after Benneteau’s win over No. 7 seed David Goffin, Karen appeared to respond with a wifely suggestion: She pointed in the direction of the French fans who had bellowed their support for him for three hours in the 103-degree heat. Julien was more than happy to walk over and thank them in person.
In the past, Benneteau has always been one shot short of greatness—he has the complete game, but not the killer weapon. And it looked like that might be the case against Goffin on Thursday. Serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, Benneteau double faulted twice and was broken; two games later, he nearly double-faulted his way into a fifth set. But this time he got just enough help from his opponent to make it across the finish line, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-6 (4).
In the deciding tiebreaker, Goffin chose the wrong shot on virtually every occasion. He tried an inside-out forehand from behind the baseline and netted it, and he missed a low-percentage line-drive backhand from his shoe-tops, when virtually any safer shot would have won him the point. It was an odd loss for Goffin, a player who, after beating Roger Federer and making the final at the season-ending event in London, looked ready for big things in 2018. For now, Federer will be pleased to see Goffin disappear from his quarter of the draw.
Benneteau will march on in his place. Since announcing his upcoming retirement, he seems to have been freed up as a player. He made an emotional run to the semifinals at the Masters 1000 event in Paris, was part of an even more emotional Davis Cup victory for France, and has now pulled off the biggest upset on the men’s side in Melbourne. Benneteau may not win his long-awaited maiden title here, but it doesn’t seem to be out of the question at a smaller event this spring. He has his celebration ready.
The Name of the Game
Earlier this week, Roger Federer lamented the fact that some of his fellow players, after spending enough time in the dark reaches of the media-interview room, can retreat into robotic answers. So far in his career, Tennys Sandgren hasn’t had that opportunity. At 26, the Tennessee native has done most of his work at the Challenger level, far from the press and the TV camera. After his 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) upset of Stan Wawrinka on Thursday, Sandgren was more than willing to show his human side.
Here Sandgren talks about his opponent:
Q. You seemed self-contained at the moment of victory. Out of respect for him or were you processing it all inside?
TENNYS SANDGREN: Out of respect for him partly, for sure. I know he's going through some tough things physically. I've been there. It's not easy. It's really difficult. I wish him all the best and hoping that he can return back to full form and top, top level, because we know what that looks like.
I made the joke in the little presser before the match, after my first round match, I watched him play in the finals of the US Open. I think it was at a bar. I was having a few beers. I was watching the tennis. That's insane, an inhuman level of tennis.
So I hope he gets back there. I've tried to dial my emotions down, not get too high, not get too low, try to find that even keel tennis. That was just in theme with that.
And here he talks about his name:
Q: What is the best story you have about your first name? 
It's always interesting. I don't give my name when I order a sandwich or a coffee. I say 'David' or something like that. I don't want to deal with the whole name thing when I get a coffee, especially first thing in the morning. I would prefer to get the caffeine, then I can maybe think about approaching the day first.
Read Joel Drucker and Nina Pantic on TENNIS.com as they report from the Australian Open, and watch them each day on The Daily Mix:
JANUARY: THIS MONTH ON TENNIS CHANNEL PLUS
NEW SEASON, MORE TENNIS! Get Tennis Channel Plus now at BuyTCPlus.com
A LOT of tennis action will be played on Tennis Channel Plus from January through June
Don't miss out on the coverage of the Australian Open over the next two weeks!

Stan Wawrinka arrived in Australia unsure that he would actually be able to play in the Australian Open. So while the 2014 champion fell in the second round to Tennys Sandgren in the first Grand Slam championship of the season, the trip was not all a loss.
“I think the past 12 days was more than what I could have dreamt coming here. I really came without thinking I will be able to play the first match,” Wawrinka said. “That's a big step for me.”
Just more than five months ago, Wawrinka had two surgeries to repair a knee cartilage injury, the first of the arthroscopic variety to look at the issue, and the next to reconstruct the cartilage. The former World No. 3 was on crutches for eight weeks.
“I think I'm way ahead of what I should be, that's for sure. That's why I need to be positive,” Wawrinka said. “I'm sure if I look really what happened the past 12 days, I can build a lot of confidence for the next few months because every day I was improving. Even today, my knee was feeling way better than two days ago. If I look at the big picture, I know it's really positive.”
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The three-time major champion was visibly struggling with his movement on Margaret Court Arena in his straight-sets loss against the American, but never thought about retiring.
“I was struggling with everything, not the knee especially. The knee was still handling well,” Wawrinka said. “As long as I enter the court, and I don't feel any big injury, I'm not going to retire. I was trying to fight. I knew it would be difficult to come back or to play better at the end. Again, I was here to fight and to try everything I could.”
And while Wawrinka is happy that he competed at all, losing is never easy.
“As an athlete, when you enter a court, you don't want to lose that way in the second round,” Wawrinka said. “You don't want to feel that way on the court. It's tough right now. As I say, I like to win. I don't like to lose, and not feeling that way.”
Wawrinka says that he will next play the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament and the Open 13 Marseille, both in February. But for now, there is one thing on his agenda.
“My plan is to leave here and go back to practice, back to practice, especially fitness-wise at the beginning, then both together with tennis,” Wawrinka said. “I know I have a lot of work to do. I need to be really patient. It's going to be tough. But I'm ready for it.”

Roger Federer barely put a foot wrong on Thursday night as he continued his quest for a sixth Australian Open trophy, which would represent his 20th Grand Slam championship crown.
The defending champion knocked out Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(4) in one hour and 56 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, in the final match of the day, completed in 30°C temperatures.
"I've practised with him [Struff], and played against him in doubles and singles," said Federer, in an on-court interview with former World No. 1 Jim Courier. "You know he can serve 215 or 220 [kilometres per hour] for five hours, so that's what you have to be ready for. I had to protect my own serve and get the break with a good defence.
"It wasn't easy. There's an expectation on the underdog, but it was a good match and I wish him the best for the season."
Federer, making his 19th appearance at Melbourne Park, will look to maintain his momentum on Saturday against Richard Gasquet, the French No. 29 seed, in the third round. Gasquet proved too strong for Italian World No. 217 Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Federer leads Gasquet 16-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Second seed Federer wasn’t troubled by No. 55-ranked Struff in the first two sets – breaking serve at 2-2 in the first set, then at 3-3 in the second set – before the German started to make inroads. Struff came within one point of taking a 4-1 lead in the third set, only for Federer to regain his focus.
The 36-year-old broke back immediately in the fifth game, then, at 5-6, struck three straight aces to force a tie-break.

Alexander Zverev recovered from a mid-match lapse to book his place in the Australian Open third round for the second successive year.
The fourth seed knocked out fellow German Peter Gojowcyzk, currently No. 62 in the ATP Rankings, 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 with on-court temperatures at 40°C (104 °F).
"I think I played a pretty good match," said Zverev. "I think the first two sets were very, very good. In the third set I played maybe a little bit shorter, maybe a little bit more passive. I don't think I played a very good set. I just feel like Peter played an amazing 25 minutes of tennis, then the set was gone. I felt like if I continued playing the way I was playing in the fourth set, I had good chances to turn it around again."
The 20-year-old struck 46 winners, including 25 aces in the victory over just under two hours, and will now face Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung of South Korea in the third round. Chung knocked out Sydney International titlist, Russian Daniil Medvedev, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1 earlier in the day.
Zverev won the first five games of the pair’s first meeting, then converted two of his nine break point opportunities – in the third and ninth games – of the second set to take a commanding lead after 50 minutes.
But 28-year-old Gojowczyk regrouped and, after saving five break points, he broke Zverev’s serve in the third game of the third set. World No. 4 Zverev won the first three games of the fourth set and finished the encounter with an ace, his 25th.
Last year, in a season that saw Zverev win five titles – including two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns - the German lost to Rafael Nadal over five sets in the Australian Open third round.

Juan Martin del Potro grit his teeth Thursday and got the job done. In searing heat, and battling an apparent injury, the popular Argentine booked his place in the Australian Open third round.
As Karen Khachanov took the third-set tie-break without losing a point, Del Potro appeared to fatigued. Summoning inner reserves, built up during the off-season, the 12th seed dug deep to record a 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(0), 6-4 victory in three hours and 45 minutes on Hisense Arena.
Afterwards, on-court, the 2009 and 2012 quarter-finalist admitted, “I didn’t expect to play this kind of match, I prefer to watch on TV. I‘m so happy to be playing in Melbourne after many years. I had pain everywhere, but I‘m still standing up.”
Del Potro, who is competing at the Australian Open for the first time since 2014, will now prepare to face 2014-15 semi-finalist Tomas Berdych, the Czech No. 19 seed, who notched a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Del Potro leads Berdych 5-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
The 21-year-old Khachanov reeled off 14 straight points, courtesy of hard hitting, from the third-set tie-break and into the fourth set, but Del Potro secured the decisive break in the fifth game. Often clutching his right leg and thigh, which required on-court treatment, Del Potro remained solid on serve and booked his spot in the third round – for the fifth time overall – when Khachanov struck a forehand into the net.
Del Potro, 29, who this week returned to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 4 August 2014, praised Khachanov by saying, “Guys are so strong, I feel I am getting older for sure. They play so hard. He hit harder than me. I had to run a lot but I think I took my chances to win the match and I‘m so happy to go through.”
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Last week, Del Potro knocked out Russian Khachanov 7-6(4), 6-3 in the ASB Classic quarter-finals.
On Thursday at Melbourne Park, Khachanov out-hit Del Potro 28 aces to 13, 73 winners to 60, but it was the Argentine’s first serve (73/90 points won) and ability to break (3/15) that mattered most.

Allez, Bennet! As last hurrahs go, former World No. 25 Julien Benneteau is enjoying an Indian summer.
The 36-year-old caused the biggest upset so far at the Australian Open on Thursday evening, when he held his nerve – in his final season as a pro – to beat seventh-seeded Belgian David Goffin 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-1, 7-6(4).
Having fallen to No. 696 in the ATP Rankings two years ago, primarily due to abductor surgery, the Frenchman could have easily called it quits. But the sentimental favourite, with an 0-10 record in ATP World Tour finals, returned and worked his way back.

Competing in intense heat, wild card Benneteau, who received on-court treatment, first served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set. But he fell to 0/40 – courtesy of two double faults and a backhand winner from Goffin. Then, a forehand error from Benneteau ensured Goffin a route back into the match.
Goffin, at 4/2 in the tie-break, looked poised to capitalise on Benneteau’s wobble to take the pair’s fourth meeting to a deciding set. But five straight groundstroke errors from the World No. 7 gave Benneteau the win – his third Top 10 victory in as many months.
Memories endure of Benneteau’s run to the Rolex Paris Masters semi-finals in November 2017, when he overcame Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Goffin [6-3, 6-3] and then No. 3-ranked Marin Cilic before falling to Jack Sock.
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Back in the Australian Open third round for the fourth time – the first since 2013 (l. Tipsarevic), World No. 59 Benneteau will now challenge Italian No. 25 seed Fabio Fognini, who knocked out Evgeny Donskoy of Russia 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 in his second-round match.

A shaky start from Novak Djokovic – five double faults in the first set – had to raise Gael Monfils' hopes: Is this the day?
The Frenchman had lost to Djokovic the first 14 times they had played in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including during the 2016 US Open semi-finals. Only nine other rivalries in the Open Era had been more lopsided.
But after Monfils took advantage of Djokovic's slow beginning, the Frenchman fatigued in the Melbourne sun, and Djokovic settled his game enough to remain perfect against Monfils. The 14th-seeded Serbian advanced to the third round of the Australian Open for the 11th time 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.Most dominant Tour-level head-to-head records (Open Era)
Player
Opponent
FedEx ATP Head2Head Series
Bjorn BorgRoger FedererRoger FedererIvan Lendl
Vitas GerulaitisMikhail YouzhnyDavid FerrerTim Mayotte
17-0
17-0
17-0
17-0
Ivan LendlIvan Lendl
Scott DavisBrad Gilbert
16-0
16-0
Bjorn BorgRoger FedererRafael NadalNovak Djokovic
Harold SolomonJarkko NieminenRichard GasquetGael Monfils
15-0
15-0
15-015-0
Bjorn Borg
Eddie Dibbs
14-0
Djokovic wasn't skipping around the court as temperatures rose into the high 30s Celsius, and his serve struggles persisted after the first set. The former World No. 1 continues to hone his new service motion, which features less windup in hopes of less pain for his right elbow. Djokovic finished with 11 double faults.
But Monfils was visibly more affected by the climate. The Frenchman frequently leaned on his racquet and placed his left hand on his knee as he tried to summon the energy to replicate the first set.
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It was only the fourth time that Monfils had taken the opening set against Djokovic in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and Monfils carried more momentum into their second-round matchup.
The Frenchman had won his seventh ATP World Tour title during week one of the 2018 season, beating Russian Andrey Rublev to claim the Qatar ExxonMobil Open trophy in Doha. Djokovic, meanwhile, on Tuesday, played his first match since July because of his right elbow injury, and the Serbian had fallen in the Australian Open second round one year ago to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in one of the upsets of the 2017 season.
But Djokovic broke Monfils seven times, and the streak lives, as does Djokovic's chances of a record-setting seventh Australian Open title, which would put him atop the title leaderboard in Melbourne. Roy Emerson also won six titles (1961 and 1963-1967.)
The Serbian will next meet the 21st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, who saved all three break points faced to beat Tim Smyczek of the U.S. 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(2). Djokovic has also never lost to Ramos-Vinolas, leading their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-0. In fact, he's never dropped a set against the left-hander, having won all 10 of their sets.

Dominic Thiem didn't have a lot of memories to rely on when he fell behind two sets to love against Denis Kudla of the U.S. on Thursday at the Australian Open. The fifth-seeded Austrian had come back from the deficit only one other time in his career (2014 US Open, d. Gulbis). Make that two times.
Thiem advanced to the third round in Melbourne for the third consecutive year, hitting 57 winners and persevering 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
“I'm of course more than happy to be in the third round again,” Thiem said on court after the three-hour and 48-minute contest.
Thiem, who's reached back-to-back semi-finals at Roland Garros, now sits a round away from matching his best showing in Melbourne, a fourth-round run in 2017 (l. to Goffin). The World No. 5 will next face Czech Jiri Vesely or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
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For more than an hour, though, it looked as if the 25-year-old Kudla, No. 180 in the ATP Rankings, would be the latest upset story in Melbourne. The right-hander, who reached No. 53 in May 2016, erased two set points in the opener and ran with the momentum to place himself one set away from the third round.
The American is no Grand Slam stranger. He was playing in his 15th Grand Slam tournament and reached the fourth round at 2015 Wimbledon. But Thiem tightened his focus, especially with his serving, in the third set, winning 80 per cent of his service points (20/25) and controlled the match from there.
Thirteenth seed Sam Querrey couldn't replicate Thiem's heroics against Hungary's Marton Fucsovics. The 25-year-old stunned Querrey 6-4, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-2 to become the third Hungarian man to reach the third round of the Australian Open and the first since Zoltan Kuharszky in 1983.
The last time Querrey lost to player ranked as low as No. 80 Fucsovics? The first round of the 2016 US Open against No. 250 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia. Fucsovic's first-round win in Melbourne was also his first Grand Slam victory.

Every major has a moment when it begins to feel, well, major. All of the matches seem to tighten at once, and you don’t know where to look next. For the 2018 Australian Open, that moment came midway through the day session on Wednesday. At roughly the same time, two well-known players, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Caroline Wozniacki, fell behind in their final sets to two younger opponents who were clearly outplaying them. Then, at roughly the same time, they dug themselves out of their shallow graves and pulled off unlikely victories. The Aussie Open was officially on.
*****
Experience, Shmexperience
Tsonga's second-round match against Denis Shapovalov was billed as a shot-maker’s special, and it delivered the shots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many miraculous, shoestring, full-stretch, on-the-run winners traded back and forth. The 18-year-old Shapovalov, looking more imposing than he did last season, began by slashing his way forward and rifling winners to both corners—Jo didn’t know which way to turn next. But the 32-year-old Tsonga was determined not to repeat his loss to the teen at last year’s US Open. He dug in and made the match a physical contest, of power serves and heavy ground strokes.
“I think it was an advantage to play him for the second time,” Tsonga said, “because I knew he was able to do things, crazy things like he did today.”
Shapovalov did enough of those crazy things to lead 5-2 in the fifth, and serve for it at 5-3. That’s when, out of nowhere, he had a hiccup and Tsonga had a brainstorm. On the opening point, rather than crushing another ball, Tsonga gently sliced a backhand; forced to create all the pace, Shapovalov missed. Then he double faulted for 15-40. That was all the opening that Tsonga needed, and he pounded his way through it.
Was it experience that made the difference? From the outside, the answer would seem to be an obvious—young player chokes, old player takes advantage. But that’s not how Tsonga saw it.
“Not really, not really,” Tsonga said when he was asked if he could chalk up his win to experience. “I think I just played well after that. I returned, [which is] what I didn’t do most of the match. I didn’t return that well. At the end I returned well. That’s it.”
Tsonga downplayed his own clever change of pace at 3-5. But he also has a point—experienced players choke as often as inexperienced ones, and sometimes the blind confidence and desire of youth trumps the more intelligent and measured attitudes that come with maturity. Any player of any age can execute well, or execute poorly. While it’s dull to talk or write about, as Tsonga says, sometimes tennis just comes down to making a return or two at the right time.
Match Point: 
Status Consciousness
Would we see a different, more aggressive Caroline Wozniacki in 2018? After her career-best victory at the WTA Finals in Singapore last October, which she won by attacking in a way she had rarely attacked before, this was one of the intriguing questions of the new season.
But it wasn’t just about whether Wozniacki would be more aggressive. It was also about whether, now that she was back up to No. 2 in the world, she would prioritize winning a major title. With Serena Williams out of the Australian Open, this seemed to be her best chance for her first Slam.
For much of her second-round match against Jana Fett, though, it appeared that Wozniacki hadn’t changed much, after all. She lost the first set, and then fell behind 5-1, double match point in the third. It was the 21-year-old, 119th-ranked Fett who was the more creative shotmaker, while Wozniacki was spinning her wheels at the back of the court and growing more frustrated with every game.
In that frustration, though, there was something different. Wozniacki did try to be more aggressive; she did fight as if she was defending her newly regained status as a top-ranked player; she did play as if this match meant more to her than a match at a smaller tournament. She moved forward, she flattened out her backhand, she didn’t settle for looping the ball and waiting for an error.
It almost didn’t work. If Fett hadn’t missed an ace by a millimeter on match point at 5-1 in the third, Wozniacki would be out of the tournament, and we’d be talking about how she still can’t do it at the Slams. What matters, though, is what Wozniacki did when she was given, as she said, a “lifeline.” She latched onto it and won the last six games.
Like Tsonga, Wozniacki said that it wasn’t experience that made the difference.
“It wasn’t so much that,” she said. “I was more thinking about obviously she’s about to beat the No. 2 player in the world. That’s what I was thinking. Obviously she’s about 100 in the world. That’s a big moment for her.”
In other words, being highly ranked doesn’t just give you confidence in your own play; it gives you confidence that your opponent will be intimidated by the idea of beating you. If Wozniacki can keep using that knowledge to her advantage, her win in Singapore really might make a difference in 2018.
Match Point: 
Youth is Serving Again
The game is getting older? This week it’s getting younger by the hour. On Tuesday, we were wowed by 17-year-old Destanee Aiava. By Wednesday, she looked like a veteran compared to the latest teen sensation, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine. This week the 15-year-old become the youngest player to reach the third round at a major since 1997.
Kostyuk, as you might imagine, is a character and a chatterer. She fist-pumped in her press conference when she talked about never having to play the juniors again. On court, though, she already looks and acts and plays the part of a pro. I like the way she steps in and attacks her topspin forehand, and she has that X factor from the baseline—the ability to inject pace into a rally—that generally augurs well for a player’s future. Numerous times in her second-round match, Kostyuk looped a backhand and followed it up with a bullet forehand. If anything, she can be too aggressive on the shot; when her opponent hits the ball hard at her, she steps forward and tries to hit it back harder.
But Kostyuk has plenty of time to learn. Her next lesson will come against her top-ranked countrywoman, and one of the favorites to win the tournament, Elina Svitolina.
No Room on the Marquee
Novak Djokovic vs. Gael Monfils has all the makings of an evening-session special. On one side, you have a six-time Australian Open champ; on the other, you have one of the sport’s most popular entertainers. Yes, their US Open semifinal two years ago was a dud, but this time Monfils is coming off a title run in Doha, and would seem to have a legitimate shot at his first win over Djokovic.
So why is their match on during the day, and Roger Federer vs. 55th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff on at night? Federer is always the biggest individual draw, of course, but that’s all the more reason to use this opportunity—when he’s facing a lesser-known opponent—to move him into the day session and let someone else get used to playing at night (the semis and final are at night). As it is, Federer will avoid the 100-degree heat that’s forecast for Melbourne on Thursday.
As Chris Clarey of the New York Times tweeted, Federer preferred the night session, because he played his first round at night (and who knows, maybe Djokovic wanted to play during the day rather than late at night). Last year, Federer played virtually all of his matches in the evening. Djokovic, meanwhile, was welcomed back to Melbourne Park this year with a trip to Margaret Court Arena for his opener, rather than a spot in Rod Laver—which went, strangely, to 20-year-old Alexander Zverev instead. Federer has obviously earned his marquee court assignments, but Djokovic has, too.
Conversation of the Day: 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk on her love-hate relationship with tennis.
“It’s not like I didn’t like it,” she said. “I actually said that I wasn’t enjoying it, you know. So, I mean, I was loving tennis. I keep loving it. But I never—like, I always want to win, no matter what. If I was losing, it was, like tragedy, you know. It was, like, I don’t want to play anymore. Why am I playing?”
Spoken like a true—i.e., compulsive and fanatical—competitor.
Read Joel Drucker and Nina Pantic on TENNIS.com as they report from the Australian Open, and watch them each day on The Daily Mix:
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Before each day's play Down Under, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches.
Novak Djokovic vs. Gael Monfils
After six months off, it took Djokovic only a few games to put himself back into cruise control in his lopsided first-round win over Donald Young. The risky second serves, the full-cut crosscourt forehands, the touch shots around the net: Everything seemed to fall into place within minutes for Djokovic. Now we need to ask: Can he sustain something like that level for two weeks, or was he just loose and relaxed because he was ahead on the scoreboard and his opponent wasn’t offering much resistance? We’ll get a much better idea when Djokovic goes up against Monfils; the Frenchman, who won a title in Doha the first week of the season, may be the most dangerous second-round opponent that a seed could face at this point in the tournament. But he also happens to be someone that Djokovic has beaten in all 14 ATP-level matches they’ve played, dating back to 2005. Winner: Djokovic
Maria Sharapova vs. Anastasija Sevastova
Like Djokovic, Sharapova looked sharp in her return to Melbourne after a year away. Like Djokovic, her slightly revamped and restrained serve was a qualified success—she only double faulted three times. But also like Djokovic, Sharapova will now put that new serve up against a trickier opponent. The 14th-seeded Sevastova, a master of finesse, was tricky enough to eliminate Sharapova on her way to the US Open quarterfinals last year. Can Sevastova do it again? She got a lot of help from a badly misfiring Sharapova that day in New York, the kind of help you can’t count on getting again from a five-time Grand Slam champ. Winner: Sharapova
Juan Martin del Potro vs. Karen Khachanov
Pray for the balls that will be used when these two aim their cannon fire at each other on Thursday. The Argentine and the Russian met for the first time in Auckland two weeks ago, and Delpo emerged a 7-6 (4), 6-3 winner. Del Potro finished 2017 in good form, and he hasn’t lost that form so far in 2018; it has been enough to finally put him back in the Top 10. Delpo is also one of the few guys who might look at his draw—he’s scheduled to face Roger Federer in the quarterfinals—as an opportunity rather than a death sentence. The 21-year-old Khachanov is a player for the future, but the 29-year-old De Potro, who has fought for three years to get back to this position, is a player for now. Winner: Del Potro
JANUARY: THIS MONTH ON TENNIS CHANNEL PLUS
NEW SEASON, MORE TENNIS! Get Tennis Channel Plus now at BuyTCPlus.com
A LOT of tennis action will be played on Tennis Channel Plus from January through June
Don't miss out on the coverage of the Australian Open over the next two weeks!