Melbourne, Jan 18 (IANS) World No.2 tennis player, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, was ruthless in his decimation of Henri Laaksonen, defeating the Swiss player 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(3) in his opening match of the Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.
With a 13-1 record across the Australian Open and US Open in 2021, the Russian dropped just three sets in those 13 victories, and would be looking for a second consecutive Grand Slam after his triumph at the Flushing Meadows.
World No. 6 and four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev of Russia also began his march towards another Grand Slam second week with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Italy’s Gianluca Mager in his 2022 debut.
Medvedev dropped serve in the opening game and then surrendered little else over the one-hour, 54-minute contest. The 2021 Australian Open finalist did not face a break point in sets two and three, though Laaksonen allowed just one break point on his own serve in that period.
“He started playing better. He was touching a lot of the lines,” Medvedev told atptour.com of his opponent’s third-set surge. “He was controlling the game, was hitting full power every shot he had.”
However, Medvedev’s patience paid off at crucial moments. Despite some visible frustration late in the third set, the Russian waited for his opponent to commit unforced errors to win the match’s last four points.
“I like pressure. It’s a really important tournament for me always in Australia. I like to play here, I like hard courts. So I always want to do better than I did last year, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Medvedev could face home favourite Nick Kyrgios in the second round on January 20. The Aussie faces British qualifier Liam Broady, who is making his Australian Open debut, later on Tuesday.
Should Medvedev win at Melbourne Park, he would become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another title in his next major appearance. This feat has been accomplished five times on the WTA, most recently by Naomi Osaka (2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open).
Rublev was off to a near-perfect start, as the clean hitter produced 31 winners to just 13 errors in the one-hour, 24-minute contest against Mager.
After winning the ATP Cup and Davis Cup with the Russian Tennis Federation in 2021, Rublev was set to begin his 2022 campaign at this year’s ATP Cup before a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out. He said he felt “a bit tired” before Tuesday’s match due to the layoff, but was pleased with his performance on the day.
“Of course I would have preferred to play ATP Cup, to feel already these emotions, the nerves during the match, to feel this winning feeling,” he explained in his on-court interview. “It’s not easy when you’re not playing for a couple of weeks and you go straight into one of the best tournaments.
“You feel a bit double pressure because you don’t know how it’s going to be. But this is life, you cannot control it.”
Rublev now awaits the winner of the match between Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania and Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain.
Making his first appearance at the Australian Open since 2018, Richard Gasquet returned with a bang in a four-set comeback upset against fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert. The 35-year-old Gasquet, 12 years his countryman’s elder, knocked off the No. 29 seed with a 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 result on Tuesday.