Australian Open midterm qualifications: Favorites Djokovic and Swiatek are still alive
Both 2022 Australian Open champions were knocked out in the second round: Ash Barty withdrew and Rafa Nadal refused to withdraw from a match despite obvious injury. The totality “Breaking point” The cast, it seems, was left out in the third round. This is the first Major after the withdrawals and withdrawals of Roger Federer and Serena Williams… But the two pre-tournament favorites Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek remain in the draw. Plus: there’s a whole special forces unit of Americans, from young left-hander Ben Shelton, on his first trip out of the country, to contenders Coco Gauff and Jessie Pégula. Let’s go to week two. But first, your partial grades…
Novak Djokovic: Barring an extraordinary upset (or an extraordinarily recalcitrant hamstring), his 10th Down Under title and 22nd Major overall appeal to him.
Each Swiatek: The top seed is playing like this. And acting like it.
American people: There are all kinds of Yankees on both sides of the toss. Coco Gauff, the 18-year veteran, receives special recognition along with Sebastian Korda (who eliminated two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev).
Andy Murray: It has become international law that one cannot mention it without pairing it with the descriptor “metal hip.” (Or grit?) He also has 35 years under his belt, four kids at home, the best sense of humor in tennis and… after more than 10 hours on the court and ten sets, he landed in the third round. That was the end of his career, but he should go away with real pride in his performance and confidence in his durability.
Chinese players: And not just women. Zhu Lin (m. Sakkari) and Zhang remain. Seventeen-year-old Jerry Shang becomes the first Chinese man to win a main draw match at a Major.
Czech teens: They just keep coming. Resistance is useless. Linda Noskova defeated Ons Jabeur earlier this month. And 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova (remember the name) announced herself in Melbourne. Speaking of special Czechs…
Martina Navaratilova: Fighting her diagnosis like she was an opponent in the ’80s. (Find her every day on the Tennis Channel pregame show, she says with a military air.)
Jack Draper: He lost his first match against Nadal. But, in what could be his last event for a while as an unseeded player, the secret is out.
Diana Schneider: The Russian left-handed Babushka-clad teen qualifies, wins a match, and becomes the mild-mannered Maria Sakkari. on a WWE heel. She couldn’t let go of that discomfort. But now, in the top 100, he’s jeopardizing her chances of enrolling at NC State as planned.
Breaking point: Tennis fans insist on unforced errors. Casual fans (and, critically, non-fans) are watching and enjoying themselves.
Felix Auger-Also: The Canadian has dropped sets in each of his first three matches. But go ahead.
The preliminary events: Great that tennis gives many players the opportunity to win money and points the week before an event. But are we at the point where it is better to delete the weeks from the calendar? Players fold rather than risk sub-optimal health for Majors. Players who go deep rarely have much left for the big show.
Coco Vandeweghe: The former semifinalist qualifies for the main draw, winning the decider 7-6 in the third…then falls in the first round 6-3, 6-1.
Garbiñe Muguruza: We have a duty not to root. But only the coldest of souls isn’t pulling quietly for her. She entered last year’s event at No. 3. After losing in the first round, wasting match points, the future Hall of Famer is out of the top 80.
Dominic Thiem: We have a duty not to root. But only the coldest of souls isn’t pulling quietly for him. He won the US Open in 2020. The suave Austrian has since fallen down the tennis mine shaft. After the first round loss, he will be out of the top 100.
Two seeds with two major final showings in 2022: Both Casper Ruud and Ons Jabeur come out with whispers and moans in the second round.
US TV coverage: If we operate under the assumption that “TV is the lifeblood of a sport”… bury coverage, juggle coverage, move games to streaming, get to the point where coverage is so maddening that the stations are making explanatory videos on social networks? It’s a great way to kill a sport.
Injury-mania: Yes, injuries are part of the sport. But so many? So early? Is it varied? Already with few stars, the tournament loses Kyrgios, Alcaraz, Tomljanovic, Badosa before the event, and those are just the beginnings of Netflix, and Nadal on Wednesday. We don’t think twice about pictures like this. Imagine other sports confronted with this pattern of events, and instead of addressing the root causes or investing in solutions, essentially shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Too bad. Good luck with a speedy and full recovery. I hope to see you on tour again soon!”
Planning: A sport that ends the competition at 4 am? It’s either the 24 Hours of Le Mans or a sport that stands up to serious treatment.